Homemade Christmas crackers (we call them bon bons), have been a tradition in our family for as long as I can remember. I’ve enjoyed taking on the role of bon bon maker for quite a few years now – you can see another year’s bon bons here.
These particular Christmas crackers were for a Christmas party that I attended with friends. Such a beautiful setting, there were 19 of us gathered outside on a long trestle table, covered in a white linen tablecloth, with branches of holly and red baubles, the ‘good glasses’ and the ‘good silver’, fabulous food and company… I digress. Remember when gatherings were so simple and… large?
Cracker making is honestly much easier than you think and I’d encourage you to get the kids making the bon bons this year. That way you get something customised exactly for your gathering and the kids make a nice contribution to your Christmas celebrations.
If you make your own Christmas crackers you can banish those dreadful Dad jokes and plastic crap you find in commercial crackers. The stuff that everyone just throws in the bin. I wrapped these Christmas crackers with old sheet music for something different and this was what I put inside:
Each year I include a snap and a hat inside the crackers, but everything else varies each year. It depends on who I’m making them for, really. Your kids will have fun coming up with something customised for each of your guests.
For example, instead of jokes in these crackers, I used ‘conversation starters’, so after we’d opened the bon bons we went around the table completing sentences such as “My earliest Christmas memory is…”, “Christmas Carols make me…”, “My favourite Christmas tradition is…” and other non-Christmassy questions. It was a really fun way to learn more about each other and get everyone into a big conversation around the table.
Loads of ideas here: 100+ family conversation starters
Cute little seed kits
As well as some red and green m&m’s and some recycled sequins, I made up little ‘alfalfa sprout kits’ with some tulle, alfalfa seeds, a rubber band and printed instructions from here (with slight variation).
There are thousands of things you could put inside your Christmas crackers, but to match the sheet music, these homemade paper decos would have gone well inside.
Some other creative ideas that are a little outside the box are:
Enjoy coming up with ideas of your own!
Do you make your own bon bons? What do you put inside?
There’s a Christmas tradition in our house, starting from my childhood, to make little chocolate Christmas puddings.
Before you go getting all impressed at my skills in the kitchen, these particular chocolate Christmas puddings are simply an Arnott’s Chocolate Royal biscuit with some white chocolate, jaffas and some sliced mint leaf lollies. Don’t you love a cheat’s easy-peasy recipe? You can knock this one out in approx 10 minutes.
All you have to do is drop a small amount of white chocolate onto the top of the Royal biscuit. Add a jaffa and some finely chopped mint leaves and you’re done. The hardest part of the whole thing will be melting the chocolate.
Which is why you need my fool-proof, no-fail chocolate melting technique…
The fool-proof, no-fail chocolate melting technique
In the past I have often found melting chocolate a bit of ‘hit & miss’. Sometimes it worked and sometimes it didn’t. More often than not it went lumpy. I could never get it right in the microwave, even though others swear by that method. But, with a bit of trial and error, I have found a foolproof way of melting chocolate perfectly every time. A method no doubt well known by others, but new to me. Here goes.
1. Boil water in kettle (or saucepan on stove)
2. Pour boiling water from kettle into saucepan until approx one third full (or remove saucepan from heat if you have boiled water on stove). I like to use a double saucepan, but you could use a metal bowl on top of a saucepan.
3. Place top saucepan (or metal bowl) onto bottom saucepan (making sure it is no longer on the stove – this is the key people!).
4. Place chocolate into top saucepan/ bowl. I like to use melts especially designed for melting.
5. Wait for chocolate to melt. It will happen slowly… quite a few minutes, but be patient and stir as you go if you like. You’ll think it is not working, but it is!
Your chocolate will be melted perfectly and your chocolate Christmas puddings will make a fine gift for friends and teachers.
Make your own crackers too
At last, a use for candy canes
With the leftover white chocolate still in the saucepan, I tried something I’ve wanted to do for a while. We made some Candy Cane bark.
Simply add a few drops of peppermint essence to the melted chocolate, pour onto a small tray covered in baking paper, then sprinkle some crushed candy canes over the top and let it set.
Once set, you break it into pieces and package into nice little gifts.
This was so ridiculously easy. Next time I would like to try a mixture of dried cranberries and pistachios on some dark chocolate, and without the essence, for a more adult Christmas treat. I’ve also seen it done with layers of white and milk chocolate or swirling the two together. The possibilities are endless.
I’ll leave you now to go melt some chocolate for your chocolate Christmas puddings or as a vehicle for making candy canes palatable. Have fun melting!
Did you have the Royal biscuit chocolate Christmas puddings as a kid?
When my eldest was aged 9, she asked if we could spend more time together crafting. This easy decoupage activity for tweens seemed like the perfect way to spend some time together, so that’s what we started with.
It seemed that just like her Mum, she needed a bit of creativity in her life to energise her and give her that buzz that you get when you are doing something that you love. There is nothing she likes more, apparently, than to potter around in my craft room sticking, painting, sewing, gluing, creating.
More things to do together: 100 fun, quirky, important ways to bond with your kid
Doing something like this easy craft activity was a special way to bond. Actually, I think “doing something” is a much easier way to spend time with our often prickly tweens. It seems they enjoy this time together too, working side by side.
Although I knew my daughter enjoyed doing anything crafty (which sadly are more few and far between than ever before), I underestimated just how much she enjoyed and valued it. I think needing quality time on her own with me was a big part of it too, as she told me that I had to do it with her, not just potter nearby.
As a result, we marked one Saturday a month in the diary to craft, just the two of us. We are very different in so many ways, so it’s nice to have something to do together that we share.
Easy decoupage activity for tweens
If you’d like to give it a go too, this is how we did it …
You will need:
– tissue box cover (we purchased ours at Spotlight)
– paper serviettes
– mod podge (special glue from craft shops)
– paint brush
1. Tear up your paper serviettes into small pieces.
2. Paint the mod podge glue both underneath and on top of the serviette.
3. Continue to cover the box with serviettes and mod podge until completely covered.
4. Depending on the thickness and colour of your serviettes you may have to do lots of layers like we did. Allow time to dry in between layers.
When my younger daughter saw what her sister had been doing, of course she had to have a go too! She had a cardboard letter A that we had also purchased from Spotlight and so she decorated that. You can decoupage anything! You can see that she did less layers on hers, but it still looks fine. Both girls love having their craft on display in their room, so this activity for tweens was a definite winner.
Do you decoupage? Any tips? Do you have another fun crafty activity for tweens to suggest?
For more Frog, Goose and Bear crafty activity ideas for you to do with your kids, click here.
I love parties and I like to go the extra mile when it comes to all the little details of the party. I also like to be environmentally-conscious wherever I can. So I thought I’d share with you how to make a drawstring bag for your party guests to take home. Of course, you can also use these bags for a million other things as well: storing toys, make-up, hair-ties, as library bags, swimming bags – they are handy for everything!
Getting the kids to make a drawstring bag is also a great way to teach them basic sewing. I hope my instructions below take all the work away from you and the kids can get busy on their own. You’ll soon find that they are addicted to making cute bags for their friends and family. You can simply never have enough drawstring bags in your life!
How to make a drawstring bag
The beauty of being able to make a drawstring bag is that you can make them the perfect size. So they’re great for gifting obscurely shaped things, and when it comes to parties, there is also the added bonus of the bag being a gift in itself. There are more complicated ways of making drawstring bags, but this is my quick and simple , no-fuss version.
You will need
- Cotton fabric
- Fabric scissors
- Sewing machine
- Ribbon or string
- Safety pin
- Fabric paint or ink for stamping (optional)
What you need to do
1. Cut your fabric into two small rectangles of the same size. How big you want the bag to be will depend on the size of the goodies you intend to put in the bag.
2. Sew the two pieces of fabric together. If you are using a patterned fabric, you’ll need to have the underside facing outwards when you sew them together.
Give it about a 1cm seam allowance and start at the top. Stitch back and forward a couple of times to reinforce the seam and then sew around three sides of the rectangle. Finish by reinforcing the end of the stitching by once again sewing back and forward a couple of times.
3. Trim the fabric from the bottom two corners. This will make the corners nice and pointy and not bunched up when you pop the bag the right way around.
4. Fold the opening of the bag down about 1cm using an iron. Make sure it is nice and even the whole way around.
5. Fold the opening down one more time using an iron. You might like to make this fold a little larger, depending on the width of the ribbon or string you intend to thread through it later.
6. Sew around the bottom of the folded edge. Begin at the edge of one of the seams, reinforce the stitching by sewing back and forward a couple of times and then continue sewing all the way around the bottom edge of the fold. Stop approximately 1cm before you reach the beginning of your sewing. Reinforce the stitching by sewing back and forward a couple of times at the end before you finish.
7. Trim the threads and flip the bag the right way around. I like to use a chopstick in the corners to make them nice and pointy.
8. Decorate your bag. You might like to leave your bag plain, particularly if you have used a patterned fabric, but I decided to decorate mine to brighten it up a little. The options for embellishment are endless, for example, sewing or ironing fabric letters or shapes onto the bag. Using ink stamps or fabric markers also works really well.
I used fabric paint on the heads of drawing pins to stamp colourful dots on my bag.
Remember if you are using fabric paint, you will need to put a piece of card inside the bag to prevent the paint going through to the other side of the bag.
9. Once your paint has dried, you can now thread your ribbon or string through the top of the bag. The easiest way to do this is to attach a safety pin to the end of your ribbon or string and thread it through the opening that you left at the top of your bag.
Once you have brought the ribbon or string back through the hole, you can cut it to size (leaving plenty of extra to allow it to hang on a wrist) and tie a knot in the end to secure.
10.Now you can fill your bag with goodies. If you are using these as party bags, this is where you can get creative. Party favours don’t always have to be lollies. In this case I thought the supplies for making friendship bracelets might be fun with some brightly coloured embroidery thread, a roll of fluro tape, a safety pin and an instruction sheet.
These secret agent bags were for my son’s spy themed 7th birthday party, which we used alphabet ink stamps to decorate.
You could also choose a patterned fabric to match your party theme like in the example below where I used some transport fabric with some small toy cars as the party favour. I can imagine party bags made with dinosaur fabric with toy dinosaurs inside, pirate fabric filled with chocolate coins or sparkly fabric with handmade beaded jewellery.
Once you’ve learned how to sew a drawstring bag, why stop at parties? You can use this same method to make all sizes of bags for storing jewellery, toys, shoes…. whatever you need.
How do you rate your sewing skills? Are you ready to make a drawstring bag now?