Lines Across

Sunday, December 21, 2014

The Best Gifts for Baby's First Christmas

This post brought to you by Happy Family Products . The content and opinions expressed below are that of Lines Across.

Christmas is right around the corner (yikes!), and for us this Christmas is extra special because it will be Oliver's first Christmas. As a family, we try to live by a less is more philosophy when it comes to presents and toys, but it's always easy to get carried away. We love giving gifts that are handmade, involve experiences, or are more open-ended. It's especially hard to come up with gift ideas for babies... especially third babies who already have a lot of toys.

When it comes down to it, half of the fun is just opening a present and finding something inside that you know you will love. And what do babies love? Food! That's why, instead of getting Oliver any toys for Christmas gifts this year, I've wrapped up some of his favorite Happy Family products and put them under the tree. I know that Oliver will be thrilled to be a part of the gift opening process, and will enjoy snacking on all of his wonderful choices! And before you feel too bad for Oliver, you must know that my in-laws (who always find the most amazing gifts) have already sent him quite a few special presents to open.

Last week I filled a box with some of Oliver's favorite Happy Family products, and he just loved digging around in that box and finding a new treasure. He pulled out the snacks one by one and I let him eat a little bit of everything. He definitely spent more time playing with, and got more enjoyment from those tasty healthy snacks than he would have from a box full of toys.

We especially love the Happy Family Brand because of their dedication to providing healthy, organic, delicious foods to growing babies and children. Good nutrition is so important right from the start, and the Happy Family products make it easier. Oliver loves the happy puffs and happy munchies, both which have a lot of healthy green veggies baked right in. Plus, the packaging is always so cute and creative.


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Friday, December 19, 2014

Polymer Clay Peppermint Candies

These clay peppermint candies were inspired by an episode of How It's Made on the History Channel that I watched a couple of years ago... on how peppermint candies are made of course. As much as I LOVE polymer clay, there are a lot of tools and techniques that I'm not familiar with, so there might be a name for this kind of technique. But this tutorial, and my whole philosophy on polymer clay, is that there are a lot of amazing things beginners can make with just their hands, or just with a couple basic tools (like these, these, these, these, or these).

What you need:
1. White and red Polymer Clay
2. PolyBlade (you could improvise with a box cutter)
3. Acrylic Clay Roller (you could also improvise)

What you do:

1. Start with a clean work surface and clean hands. White clay will especially pick up and show any little pieces of dust, fuzz, or other colored clay.

2. Knead pieces of white clay and roll them into tiny little tubes. They don't need to be perfect, but try to make them generally the same size as each other.

3. Roll out pieces of red clay into tiny red tubes. Wash your hands again after working with the red clay or your white clay will all look pink. Line up your tubes to be white red white red, etc...

4. I ended out using 7 red tubes and 7 white tubes. I would recommend a minimum of 7 of each, and I think even using a few more would look better. Gently roll together the tubes so that they become a sheet. Don't flatten them too much though.

5. Roll a large white tube. This will be the center of the peppermints. This takes a little trial and error to get the middle tube to be the right width.

6. Wrap the red and white tubes around the large white tube. (You may have to make the white tube bigger or smaller to fit). You want the edges to line up perfectly. You may also need to use the clay knife to carefully lift the red and white tubes from your work surface.

7. Now roll the whole new tube together gently. It will get smaller, so it's good to make everything a little bit bigger than you want it to be.

8. Use your knife to start slicing pieces of peppermint. They do not need to be absolutely perfect, but you should try to make them pretty close to the same size. If you find that the pieces are slightly flattening as you cut them, try putting your clay in the freezer for about 10 minutes. It will make the clay harder, but you will still be able to cut it.

9. Bake according to the directions on the package. Let it cool fully before doing anything else.

10. Coat each side of your peppermints with glossy glaze for that finished candy look.

And you're done. Since it's hard to perfectly recreate a tube, if you're wanting to make a lot of peppermints, I would recommend making one very long tube. I was able to make about 40 peppermints from one small package of white clay. However, this will vary a lot based on the width and thickness of your tubes.

You can now use these in all sorts of fun peppermint crafts. And what's great? They're not sticky, and they can last from year to year. I turned a bunch into a peppermint garland by hot gluing them to some red and white baker's twine. They would also make beautiful little ornaments.

Monday, December 15, 2014

How to Make Geometric Christmas Cookies

Recently, I got a chance to try out the Nestle Toll House Rolled and Ready Cookie Dough as a part of a sponsored campaign. I'm so thrilled I did, because they are pretty much my new favorite thing!

I really love making cookies at Christmas. I have this one time consuming recipe for sugar cookies that I try to make each year, but it ends out taking forever, and lately I just don't have the time. So when I saw these Nestle Toll House Rolled and Ready Cookie Dough, I knew they would be perfect for me. You get to have all of the fun and deliciousness or freshly baked homemade cookies right out of the oven without using mixing bowls, measuring cups, a rolling pin, etc... I even made all of these cookies without using a cookie cutter at all. Then I topped them with royal icing (the kind that hardens) and large sprinkles.

You can use cookie cutters with these fun cookie sheets and decorate them with your kids. However, they are also really fun for creating cool cookies really quickly. I'll show you how I made these geometric Christmas tree cookies and these letters without a cookie cutter at all.

What you need:
1. Nestle Toll House Rolled and Ready Cookie Dough
2. A knife or pizza cutter
3. Royal icing (meringue powder, powdered sugar, water)
4. A Ziploc bag
5. Giant sprinkles

What you do:

1. Preheat the oven according to the instructions. Take out a sheet of already rolled cookie dough.

2. To make the geometric Christmas trees, use a pizza cutter or just a plain kitchen knife to cut the sheet in half, and then to start cutting it into lots of triangles. Because the cookies tend to spread out a little, I ended out making the triangles below into little mountains, and used slightly narrower triangles to make the geometric Christmas trees.

3. Spread out the cookies so they aren't too close together, then bake according to the instructions.

*To make the letters, use a toothpick to lightly sketch out the shape of the letters you want on top of a sheet of cookie dough. Make them a little bit narrower than you want because they will spread out. Then cut out the letters with a regular old kitchen knife.

4. Decorate the cookies with royal icing and large sprinkles (I found the meringue powder and sprinkles in the baking aisle of the craft store.)

Tips for working with Royal Icing

Royal icing is one of my favorite things. I love how the icing hardens into a crispy candy shell. There's a way to make it with egg whites, but I just like to use meringue powder because it's really easy. It's a little hard to work with though because it will start to dry almost immediately. Here's a few tips on working with it:

1. When you are first following the recipe to make royal icing, use a little less water than the directions call for. Then add in more water slowly until you are happy with the thickness. If you add too much water, you have to add a TON more powdered sugar to even things out.

2. You can buy all sorts of special cookie and cake decorating tools, but if you don't have any, you can just use a Ziploc bag. Pour some royal icing in the plastic bag, and make sure it's sealed. Then cut a very tiny hole in one of the corners. Now you can squeeze the icing out as you decorate.

3. If you want to fill in areas of a cookie (like the LYLA letters above), first start by doing the outline. Let it dry just a little bit for a minute or two, then fill in the middle area.

4. It will take a few hours (maybe overnight) for the icing to fully dry into that crispy candy shell. However, the top layer dries pretty quickly, so add the sprinkles pretty quickly if you want them to stick.

Saturday, December 13, 2014

Gilded Feather Polymer Clay Ornaments

If you follow me on Instagram, you've probably noticed that I'm a little obsessed with gold and white this Christmas. I also seriously love polymer clay, especially when it comes to handmade ornaments. So when I saw these beautiful gold dipped feather ornaments from Anthropologie, I knew I had to make something similar out of polymer clay.

These are generally really easy to make, and they are a great project for someone new to polymer clay. However, it did take me a couple of tries to get feathers that I liked. The first set looked a little more like leaves. 

What you need:

1. White polymer clay
4. Gold paint 

* I thought I was buying this sort of Liquid Gilding and I planned on dipping the ends of the feather into the gold paint. However, I ended out getting this sort of gold paint (Inka Gold Metal Gloss Paint ) that is very thick and you gently rub on. You can't go wrong either way, but I do love how the gold rub brought out the texture of the feathers. Plus, it dried almost immediately.

What you do:

1. Start by rolling a long white tube of white polymer clay. It shouldn't be too perfect. Make the ends a little bit thinner than the middle. Make sure the surface you're working on is nice and clean because the white clay will pick up anything like dust or crumbs. 

2. Now take your acrylic roller and roll the white piece flat into a feather shape. Keep rolling in different directions until you get the shape you want. Don't be afraid to start over. 

3. Use a flat edged wooden tool to press down and make a line down the middle of your feather. As you go, use the flat edged wooden tool to push along the edges of the feather and shape it however you want.

4. Start making lines on each side of your feather. At first I only made a few lines, but I realized it looked more feathery with lots of overlapping lines in different directions. Press down rather than drawing the lines on. Press down a little extra along the edges to create that feathery edge.

5. Poke a hole in the top of your ornament, and bake according to the instructions on your clay.

*Tip: Sometimes it's hard to move something flat and delicate like this from your working surface to your baking sheet. I like to go ahead and create each feather on a piece of parchment paper so I can just lift the whole thing and put it into the oven. 

6. Let it fully cool. Brush on some gold. Make the tip of the feather the most gold, and lightly brush on gold over the middle part of the feather. I like how the gold only brushed onto the top part showing the texture of the feather. I also brushed some gold around the edges of my feathers, but when I make some more (hello handmade Christmas gifts!) I might skip this. Use embroidery thread, baker's twine, ribbon, string, or twine to hang the ornament.

DIY Gold Confetti Dipped Mug

Recently, I got a chance to try out the new line of McCafé ground coffee and coffee pods available at Walmart as a part of a sponsored post through #CollectiveBias - as always, all thoughts, opinions, and photos are my own. #McCafeMyWay

Ever since having kids I've become a little bit of a morning person. If you knew me before having kids then you might find this hard to believe because I was a hardcore night owl. However, after 5 years of waking up at the crack of dawn and going to sleep early, I think my body has adjusted. In college, I would get caught up in some art project or painting and stay up all night working on it. However, these days, I feel most creative in the mornings.

Everyone always talks about how mothers need to find time for yourself. I used to think this meant things like taking weekend trips, getting involved in a club, and girls nights out. However, for me, the most important thing is to find little moments of me time and things that make me happy throughout the day. Things like enjoying a great cup of coffee, or working on a simple craft seriously brighten my day and keep me from getting burned out while taking care of 3 little kids.

I made this gold confetti dipped mug to combine three of my favorite me things: making things, drinking coffee, and looking at beautiful things. Now every time I drink coffee in the mornings or get to try new coffee (like this delicious McCafé French Roast dark brew), I get to also enjoy this beautiful mug.

The french roast coffee pods I tried were especially delicious! Since I like a lot of cream (but no sugar) in my coffee, I really love the dark blend. I also got to try the French Vanilla blend of McCafé coffee grounds. I don't always love flavored coffee because usually the flavor is too strong, and it almost tastes like it's just there to mask inferior coffee. However the flavor of this McCafé blend is very light and natural tasting. Plus, all of the McCafé coffee is made with 100% Arabica beans for premium quality coffee.

Last week, I discovered jumbo glitter when I saw this cute post. I'm not sure how many times I've been to the craft store and never noticed it, or just how many pins I've looked at without realizing this beautiful thing existed. So of course I ran out and bought some and thought it would be perfect for my mug craft. I also used dishwasher safe Mod Podge. This is the first time I've used it before and it worked beautifully. What's great is that (unlike a lot of other DIY mugs) this one will be dishwasher safe!

What you need:
1. A plain white mug
2. Rubbing alcohol
3. Jumbo glitter
4. Dishwasher safe Mod Podge
5. A soft paint brush

What you do:

1. Carefully follow the instructions on the Mod Podge. First clean your surface with rubbing alcohol.

2. Coat the bottom area of your mug with a medium layer of Mod Podge. Pour on some glitter. I wanted the glitter to be denser at the bottom and more and more spread out at the top.

3. Keep brushing on Mod Podge and adding glitter until you are generally happy with how it looks. Make sure that the glitter isn't layered on top of each other too much.

4. Let the Mod Podge dry, then cover everything in a medium coat of more Mod Podge. Add a few extra pieces of glitter here and there to fill out your design.

5. Let the second layer dry, then add another. Since the glitter is pretty thick, I would recommend adding even another.

You can use the mug after about a day, but the bottle recommends letting it cure for about a month before you put it in the dishwasher. Since I just made this recently, I haven't gotten a chance to test it in the dishwasher yet, but I've heard good things from other people who have used it.

Be sure to stop by Walmart to try the new McCafé coffee. It's available in 8 different flavors, and comes in both pods and ground coffee bags. From December 18 - December 21, there will be special demos at many Walmart locations across the country. And if you're looking for some great recipes and ideas, visit the Cooking Up Good website full of everything from sweepstakes, to recipes, to coupons.

What little things throughout the day make you happy? How do you find me time at home?

Monday, December 8, 2014

Embroidered Gift Wrap and 24 Kraft Paper Wrapping Ideas

As many of you may know, this fall I launched Let's Wrap Stuff, a website devoted to all things gift wrap related. To celebrate its launch and its first Christmas, I challenged a select group of talented bloggers to come up with a creative gift wrap idea using plain kraft paper. Who doesn't love brown paper packages tied up with string? Of course, I had to take part too! Check out all 24 creative kraft paper gift wrap ideas below.

First, I'm going to share with you this fun embroidered gift wrap idea. Full disclosure: this gift wrap took a long time... somewhere between 30 minutes and an hour. And while this isn't very long for a fun craft project, it is a long time for wrapping a present. So what I ended out doing was wrapping up an empty box with the paper, and adding it to my Christmas decorations. There are a couple of things I also could have done differently to make it go a lot faster, but I'll get to that in a minute.

What you need:
1. Embroidery thread
2. A needle
3. A thumb tack
4. Tiny Wood Spools
5. Mod Podge (or glue)
6. Paint & paint brush
7. Tape
8. Pencil & eraser
9. Ribbon or fabric/paper tape measure

What you do:

1. Start by sketching your design lightly in pencil onto plain kraft paper gift wrap.

2. Take a thumb tack and start poking holes along your design. I alternated a larger gap for where the thread is over and a smaller gap for where the thread is under.

3. Erase the pencil marks.

4. Instead of tying a knot, it's easiest to just tape the end of your thread to the inside of the wrapping paper. Then start stitching your words. Be careful to not tear the paper. I used one very long piece of thread because I wanted to have enough at the end to ravel around the little spool. However, it took forever to stitch because there was so much thread. In retrospect, it would be a lot easier to use a smaller thread and to just tape the end and start a new one when it ran out.

5. When you've finished with the lettering, go ahead and wrap your present. Paint on any other words you want to include.

6. Now take the tiny spool, and cover the middle area with Mod Podge. Start wrapping the end of the thread around the spool, until it is all covered. When your spool is where you want it to be, attach it to the paper.

7. Finish wrapping your gift with ribbons, buttons, or even fabric measuring tape. This would be the perfect way to wrap a gift for someone who loves to sew. You could also use those free paper tape measures from IKEA as ribbon.

Now onto the BROWN PAPER PACKAGE challenge. Be sure to stop by and check out these great gift wrap ideas. 
Brown Paper Packages - 24 Creative Gift Wrap Ideas

1. Pom Pom Ice Cream Cone Gift Wrap by Let's Wrap Stuff

2. Embroidered Wrapping Paper by Lines Across

3. Holiday Lights Gift Wrap by Burlap and Blue

4. Printable DIY Watercolor Gift Tags by Dawn Nicole

5. Chalkboard Painted Wrapping Paper by The Winthrop Chronicles

6. Let it Snow Neighbor Gift Printable by Ginger Snap Crafts

7. Upcycled Cardboard Gift Tags 3 Ways by Eat. Sleep. Make.

8. Kraft Paper Gift Card Envelope Printables by Delia Creates

9. Make + Give Christmas Tree Gift Topper by Make and Tell

10. DIY Wrench Wrapping Paper by Maker Mama

11. DIY Stamped Trees Gift Wrap by Shaken Together Life

12. Brown Paper Packages by Delineate Your Dwelling

13. Yarn Tassel Gift Wrap 2 Ways by Hands Occupied

14. Holiday Writing with Washi Tape by Club Chica Circle

15. Glitter-Dipped Gift Tags by The Thinking Closet

16. Coffee Container Christmas Gift Tags by Simply Kelly Designs

17. Gift Wrapping Ideas by C.R.A.F.T.

18. Holiday Gift Wrap Ideas by Making Home Base

19. Sewn Brown Paper Gift Card Gift Giving by Dream a Little Bigger

20. Chalkboard Gift Tag & Ornament by Tried and True

21. Easy Holly Ornament Gift Tag by Rae Gun Ramblings

22. Printable Hand-Lettered Christmas Tags by Persia Lou

23. Christmas Gift Wrapping Ideas by Eighteen25

24. Washi Tape Christmas Tree Gift Card Box by That's What Che Said
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