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Family Craft Ideas

with Leah

I'm Leah--wife, mother, editor, writer, photographer, and rickrack apologist. There's craftiness in my DNA, but between the kids and my work and the house and the television and my blogs (http://www.agirlandaboy and http://www.workitmom.com/bloggers/workingonmotherhood, among others), I have to keep my projects quick and easy if I hope to finish them before my boys (born December 2008 and July 2012) graduate from college. You're a working mom and you're busy too, but if you still want to get your craft on, join me here for some fun projects!

Thanksgiving Place Card Salt Dough Ornaments

Categories: Christmas, Thanksgiving, dough, fall, stamps

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If you’re a child of the seventies or eighties, you’ve probably made at least one salt dough ornament in your lifetime. If yours turned out like mine did—as deformed candy canes and lopsided snowmen mid-melt–you may have written them off forever. With today’s project, though, I hope I can change your mind. These personalized salt dough ornaments are quick and easy, they cost almost nothing, and dare I say they look chic and elegant enough to grace the main table at Thanksgiving dinner. Which is what we’re making them for.

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What you’ll need:
–all-purpose flour
–salt
–water
–parchment paper
–round cookie cutter
–ink pad
–stamps
–drinking straw
–ribbon

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When I was growing up, my design-happy aunt always hosted Thanksgiving dinner, and every year I looked forward to seeing how she’d decorated the table. (She was queen of the tablescape before there was even such as word as “tablescape.”) One of the details she included was a place card for each person, and the best kinds of place cards were the ones that we could take home as a keepsake. This is what we’re going to do with our salt dough: personalized keepsake ornaments that double as place cards.

Start by mixing up a batch of salt dough. (I halved this recipe and ended up with enough dough for eight ornaments.) Combine 2 cups of flour and 1 cup of salt, and then add about a cup of water, a little at a time, until your dough holds together and can be rolled out smoothly. I needed extra water; you may need less. Salt dough holds up really well in the fridge sealed in plastic wrap, so this is a great make-ahead project. (I also had a few of these puff up in the oven for reasons unknown, so I definitely suggest making them early so you don’t find yourself trying to whip up replacements on a day the oven is busy with things like turkey and stuffing and pie and *drooooool*.)

When your dough is the perfect consistency, roll it out into a 1/4-inch-thick sheet. I rolled it out directly on the parchment paper so I wouldn’t have to transfer the ornaments and risk squishing them all out of shape.

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Use you cookie cutter to cut out your ornaments, but don’t remove the extra dough quite yet, since keeping it there will help your ornaments stay nice and round while you press stamps into them.
I didn’t want my ornaments to feel too Christmassy for the Thanksgiving table, so I decided to use a feather stamp I bought on Etsy a few months ago when I customized a swaddle blanket for a friend’s new baby. To get the multicolor effect, I used the stamp pad from the autumn thumbprint trees I made a few weeks ago.

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If you’re using a multicolored stamp pad, make sure you get your stamp inked up really well on the first try so you don’t have to double-dip, and remember to wash and dry your stamp between each use so your colors don’t get muddied.

To stamp the names, I used the alphabet set you might recognize from when we decorated Easter eggs.

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You could ink up your letter stamps if you want, but I really liked the look of the embossed names. One thing to look out for if you do it my way is that, depending on how high your stamps are cut and how hard you have to press on them to make an impression, you may end up with faint stamp edges around the letters. If that happens and you don’t like how it looks, just give the dough a gentle rub and they should disappear.

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To make a hole for the ribbon, I used a drinking straw.

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When you’re finished with all the stamping and decorating, remove the excess dough and transfer your ornaments to a baking sheet. If you cut them out really close together and are worried about them sticking together, you can cut the waxed paper around the ornaments so each is on its own little sheet. Put them all in a 250-degree oven for one to tree hours until they’re nice and dry. (The batch I put in for one hour came out the same color as the dough; the batch I put in for two hours came out a brownish shade, more like a chocolate chip cookie.)

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And now you have Thanksgiving place cards that double as keepsakes and triple as Christmas ornaments. Have I changed the way you think about salt dough?

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