I’m so excited to share with you this easy DIY craft project for Cupcake Liner Trees for Valentine’s Day. These cupcake liner trees are unbelievably cute and fast to create.
I had so much fun creating our yarn trees this winter that I just knew I needed to recreate the magic for Valentine’s Day. If you have a mantle or coffee table that could use some festive décor, then you will love this easy and inexpensive project. All you need are $10 in materials and you will have two festive trees in less than thirty minutes. Now that is a craft that I can get behind.
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner and one of my favorite things to share here on the Goodwill Tips Blog is frugal ways to celebrate the holidays using items from your local Goodwill Store. You may have thought last year’s DIY Valentine’s Day Projectspost couldn’t be topped, but I think today’s projects are going to rival all that I shared last year. The best part is that they are both beautiful AND frugal- a total win for my wallet and my home!
Let’s get started with this year’s featured projects! Head on over to the Goodwill Tips blog to find out how to recreate all of these fun ideas!
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner so I wanted to share a fun recipe for Gluten-Free Cake Mix Cookies that you could create as a fun treat to give or to share with those you love.
Walmart asked me to create a Valentine’s Day treat with one of their exclusive products they carry. Since I am such a big M&M fan, I decided to use their Red Velvet M&M’s in my recipe.
Do you ever have a really hard time with a recipe and then later wonder if it had ever been tested? That was the case with this project from start to finish. These cookies were supposed to be simple and straightforward, but the recipe ended up being written completely wrong. Thankfully for you, I spent a whole day figuring out what went wrong with this one and how we can fix it so that you can have an awesome baking day!
Please read this post carefully, I am offering you a load of tips for a successful baking day!!
Are M&M’s Gluten-Free?
Let’s begin with the question, are M&M’s gluten-free? The answer is that most M&M’s are gluten-free. In fact, most of the varieties they typically carry, other than their pretzel variety, are gluten-free.
What I found with the Red Velvet M&M’s though are that they are gluten-free, but in high times of production, like Halloween & Valentine’s Day, Mars uses alternative facilities to make its candy and some of those may introduce cross-contamination risks. These Red Velvet M&M’s are ones that could have been cross-contaminated. If this is of high concern, look for the plain M&M’s, preferably mini-M&M’s to help your dough hold up better.
It is always important to read your labels carefully and know that Mars Chocolate always promises to call out any wheat, barley, and rye ingredients by name, as well as any cross-contamination risks on their labels. I recommend this information page for finding which Valentine’s Day candies are safe to eat.
Tips for a Successful Dough
As, I am a big fan of the Betty Crocker cake mixes, I used this to create my cookies. As you can see when I mixed the ingredients together, this dough is very crumbly. To help make this dough really hold and stick together, add 3-4 teaspoons of water to the dough, until it really comes together. This will help when slicing your sugar cookie rolls.
The recipe that was written did not add this to the dough and so when I sliced them, the cookie dough crumbled. I had to add my water later and chill them again for another three hours. Once I sliced with the liquid addition, the dough held much better.
If you need these cookies to be dairy-free as well as gluten-free, please read the notes in the recipe on how you can create these without the butter.
Tips for a Successful Sugar Cookie Log
One more thing, I learned while creating this cookies is that it is better to make your sugar cookie roll WITHOUT the M&M’s in it and then add them to your cookies after so you can get beautifully clean slices.
Trying to cut through these Red Velvet M&M’s was a real challenge so I would encourage adding them after or just doing these cookies as a drop cookie. To do a sugar cookie roll, as pictured above with M&M’s, seek the mini varieties. Again, read the packaging carefully to insure that they are safe for eating.
Wrap your sugar cookie roll in wax paper and chill for three hours or more. Once you are ready to bake off your cookies, preheat your oven to 350 degrees and then slice them and place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet or a well-greased cookie sheet. I prefer parchment paper, both for the ease of clean-up and how beautifully these cookies will set up.
Allow these to cool and then transfer. These cookies are very delicate in texture so you will want to give them plenty of time to set up.
What Do They Taste Like?
These cookies are so delicious that you will NEVER know that they are gluten-free. The dough is so flavorful and the healthy dose of vanilla in the batter makes these taste like a cookie dough that you truly slaved over. The addition of the candies adds that yummy chocolate flavor that I think every good cookie should have.
With these helpful tips, I hope you will have a successful baking day and hope that this easy treat idea will help as you plan your own Valentine’s Day treats this year!
Can I Freeze These?
Cookies can be frozen! It is recommended that you wrap them in aluminum foil or in a resealable plastic bag for up to one month. Let the cookies thaw on the kitchen counters overnight before serving.
What Other Ways Can I Spice Up These Cookies?
If you can’t have chocolate, there are many other ways you can spice these easy cookies up.
Add Sprinkles- Lightly beat one egg white and brush the tops of your cookies with it, then sprinkle with gluten-free sugar sprinkles.
Add Zest- Add 1 teaspoon of grated lemon, orange, or key lime zest
Switch Your Extract- Try a different extract in your dough like almond or butter
Make It Spicy- Add a pinch of nutmeg, cinnamon, or dust the tops with the egg white & a cinnamon & sugar combo.
Cake mix cookies that can be gluten-free and dairy-free for a fun treat to share for any holiday.
1 package (15 ounces) yellow gluten-free cake mix
8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter- if dairy-free replace with vegetable shortening, MELTED
1 large egg
3-4 teaspoons warm water, just until you see your dough pull together
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
¾ cup M&M's or read the post for other ways to spice up these cookies
Place the cake mix, butter (or vegetable shortening), egg, water, and vanilla in your mixing bowl and beat on low speed until well-combined.
Using a spatula fold in the M&M's (if mini-sized) or reserve to press these into each cookie after they have been cut (if large-sized)
Place the cookie dough on a sheet of wax paper and then press with your hands to form a long,approximately 12 inches long and 2 inches in diameter. Tightly roll the dough and chill it in the refrigerator for at least three hours or overnight.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Grease two cookie sheets well or cover these in parchment paper.
Unwrap the dough and transfer to a cutting board and slice them in ¼-3/8" slices.
Place the baking sheets in the oven and bake until the cookies are lightly browned on the edges,7-10 minutes.
Let the cookies fully cool before transferring.
Have you ever made gluten-free cake mix cookies? Do you have any tips for beginning gluten-free bakers on ways to increase success with cake mix cookies?
I love to create new holiday traditions with my family and today’s project is in honor of the Chinese New Year! To celebrate, I am sharing a tutorial on how to make felt fortune cookies and a free printable that can be placed on a jar for a special Chinese New Year tradition.
I have partnered with Walmart on this project to showcase a fun project that you can do in honor of the holiday. All supplies for this project can be found at their store!
What is Chinese New Year?
Chinese New Year is the longest and most important celebration in the Chinese calendar. The Chinese year 4712 begins on Jan. 31, 2014. A fun fact for this year is that this is the year of the horse.
New Year festivities traditionally start on the first day of the month and continue until the fifteenth, when the moon is brightest. In China, people may take weeks of holiday from work to prepare for and celebrate the New Year. Can you just imagine?
According to the Chinese legend, Buddha arranged a meeting and asked all the animals to meet him on Chinese New Year. Twelve animals came and Buddha named a year after each one. If you were born in certain years, your personality is supposedly aligned with your animal. Those born in horse years are cheerful, skillful with money, perceptive, witty, talented and good with their hands. Since this is the year of the horse, if you have a child born this year, it sounds like you will have quite a talented and delightful child.
There are many great traditions around this holiday that include wearing red clothes which symbolizes fire and drives away bad luck, and a lantern festival, and one thing that Americans really seem to get behind is…
We are a Fortunate Family
Since the Chinese New Year is about feasting and family, I wanted to create a craft that would work for these two elements of the holiday. I love that many elements of this holiday focus on luck & good fortune. Incorporating this element, today we are making felt fortune cookies, but instead of filling them with predicted fortunes, we are going to fill them with all we are so fortunate for.
Because we are a FORTUNATE family.
I love gratitude projects and thankfulness for all we have around the dinner table is definitely a tradition that I want my family to embrace.
(All Available at Walmart)
Felt Sheets (any color)
3/8″ grosgrain ribbon
Large Mason Jar
Hot Glue Gun & Glue Sticks
1 piece of heavy cardstock
1 piece of white paper & pencil
How to Make Felt Fortune Cookies
1. Using your ribbon spool or the bottom of your mason jar, trace a circle with a pencil or marker. Cut out your circle.
2. Snip a piece of floral wire, approximately the length of your circle, with your wire cutters. Add a line of hot glue, and place the wire in the center of the glue.
3. Snip grosgrain ribbon the approximate length of your circle and then secure over the wire with a little additional glue.
4. Fold your circle in half and then bend like a fortune cookie. Repeat the process until you have a jar full of fortune cookies.
You can enlist your helpers to help make your fortune cookies. Since we have had UNLIMITED SNOW DAYS THAT NEVER END, I have many helping hands. Ahem.
The best part though, is involving them in the gratitude portion of this project. Using the writing prompt,
“I’m Fortunate For…”
Have children write down all the things that make their family special.
Emily said, “I’m Fortunate For…that my family are GRATE dancers.”
What can I say? She comes from a long lineage of family members that just BRING IT on the dance floor!
Mom & Dad can get in on the fortune cookie writing prompt too. Hopefully your husband doesn’t read this aloud and then ELABORATE endlessly on his AMAZINGNESS.
My husband designed this fantastic printable that you can attach to a jar. I just dabbed a little glue on my jar and attached this side. You could also print this on label paper or attach with a little double-sided tape to finish your project. (Grab the printable at the bottom of this post!)
If you are looking for dinner options, here are couple of great ones that I can recommend!
Oh, you know I love a good knitting project! Today I am showing off my Knitted Princess Leia baby hat that I made. Not only that, but I am going to walk you through how to knit in the round for my favorite beginning knitters.
Walmart let me choose any craft project I wanted this month and since I am in knitting mode this winter, I have been dying to make this cute little hat ever since I saw it on Ravelry.
US 10.5 Straight needles (for knitting flat option)
US 10.5 Circular needles and set of 4 US 10.5 DPNs (for knitting in the round option)
Although, this hat can be knitted flat, I would love to challenge you to give knitting in the round a try. For a long time, I completely avoided projects that you had to knit in the round.
Unfortunately, if you never knit in the round you miss out on a lot of amazing patterns, particularly hand-crampingly tiny knits that would be stretched out when placed upon circulars.
I decided to create a picture tutorial for you to help guide you through your first knit. A quick search on YouTube should also yield great video tutorials. Let’s begin with this easy diagram.
1. Cast all of the stitches onto one double pointed needle.
2. Using your strong math skills (ahem) divide the cast on number by three and begin knitting that number on to your second needle. Be sure that you are beginning your stitches as the pattern states and not just knitting them. For this pattern, for example, you are doing a K2 P2 rib. You will want to be sure you are staying on pattern with your stitches. Place a marker on that second needle (at the end of the stitches) so it marks the beginning of your round.
3. Knit, in pattern, onto the next needle. You should now have three needles with stitches! Yay!
4. You will now be scooting and joining stitches on your needles, like in the triangle of needles above. You will use a FOURTH needle though, to begin knitting in the round. Just begin where you have placed your marker and begin knitting. Because I only have two hands, I am just showing how to set it up. You will use that fourth needle to begin. Continue knitting and scooting things, making sure your stitches are all facing in the same direction, particularly in those first two rows.
I love that these Princess Leia braids are not knitted. In fact, all we are doing is gathering yarn and braiding it like hair. I used a clipboard to clip the my hair to the top so that I could get nice and even braids.
Although the pattern says to measure these at 36″ long, I will admit that I am terrible measurer. If you are terrible like me, be sure to make both the braids and then trim them to be approximately the same length, otherwise Princess Leia is going to look a little lopsided!
Once I had the braid all gathered up, I trimmed all those loose pieces down and then secured it to the hat. These braids double as delightful little ear warmers.
The pattern gives you the options to make it for a Preemie all the way up to an Adult. I admit, after I made this tiny hat, I felt the impulse to make one for myself. I mean, who doesn’t dream of being Princess Leia?
With this large amount of yarn, I can easily make three to four hats for less than $4! Score!
In honor of MomAdvice.com’s tenth birthday, I wanted to share this recipe for an easy chocolate chiffon cake made with peppermint buttercream frosting, perfect for celebrating our special day with you. This chocolate chiffon cake is made from a cake mix and the homemade peppermint buttercream frosting is the perfect use of any leftover holiday candy canes you might have in your home.
Since this is my own birthday week, we decided to devote this week towards celebrating this incredible milestone. Tomorrow I will be revealing our best giveaway yet and I will be calling upon you to help me fulfill our site’s birthday wish. I can’t even believe that the site has now been around a decade! Someone pinch me please!
In the meantime, let’s talk about making a birthday cake for our celebration.
Truth be told, this is my sweet little girl’s birthday pick this year. It is a family tradition that the birthday child gets to pick their birthday cake each year from my big stack of cookbooks. She had her heart set on a chocolate chiffon cake, but the one that was featured in the cookbook was a bundt cake and I knew she was looking for that traditional layered cake that makes all parties special.
I did some web searching and figured out how to make this into a layered cake and then frosted it with a beautiful peppermint buttercream frosting to finish it off. We had to tint it pink though…this is after all, Emily’s birthday.
I am a very humble cake decorator so I relied upon a few yarn pom poms on skewers to create a little cake banner over her cake. Peppermint candies crushed on top also act as a great eye distractor from my sad frosting skills.
Hey, a mom can’t be great at everything
We popped our cake in a cake carrier and transported it to Grand Rapids, Michigan where we took a family holiday in lieu of gifts this year. We got to celebrate Emily (just the four of us) and enjoyed several days of seeing the sites while enjoying a cozy cabin away from it all. I made my daughter’s birthday dinner request (a giant helping of Weeknight Chicken Lo Mein) and a delicious slice of birthday cake was enjoyed by all. And I do mean ALL.
My husband, who seems to hate cake for some reason, wanted a second slice and the whole family agreed that this was the perfect birthday cake. The cake tastes so light and airy and the buttercream had just a hint of mint that added a creamy finish to the top of the slice. It was the perfect ending to a perfect evening celebrating.
Now that we have covered the cake, tomorrow we will be covering the GIFTS.
Please come back tomorrow to see our big surprise!
Here’s a hint… this gift will help a thousand people! ONE THOUSAND PEOPLE. Have I grabbed your interest yet?
I can’t believe that December is already here and we are dreaming up great New Year’s projects for you! Of course, I am featuring glittered projects and upcycle projects that could be enjoyed any time of the year. The best part is that you can find many of the materials for these projects at your local Goodwill Store for a fraction of the price compared to other retail stores.
Each year, I find myself coming to the topic of simplifying the holidays. Don’t we just all wish this time of year was a little easier? Despite my best efforts to simplify, it can feel impossible in the midst of the kid’s holiday programs, get togethers, shopping, wrapping, sending of cards, gift-giving, & holiday baking.
I don’t want to brag, but this year we really did achieve that simple holiday we have been longing for and I am partnering with Ritz to share how you can avoid the parade of endless holiday to-do’s and instead embrace a simpler holiday.
Simplify the Giving of Holiday Cards
I love, love, love having pictures that I am in and having someone else take them for me, but we lost track of time and weren’t able to book our usual family session. Instead of not sending cards, I set my camera up on a tripod and we took our family shot by setting the timer on our camera and having me jump into the family picture. By getting everything set up in advance before my family came outside, we were able to get our picture in a mere five minutes. Before everyone had their coats off, I had our photos edited and cards in the mail. The best part is that we have moved our family session to the Spring, a time of year we decided was much less chaotic, and will really enjoy it all a little bit more.
I will admit that I was also was more laid back about how we did our cards this year and enlisted one of my favorite helpers to assist me in this year’s mailing. Not only was she excellent at adding our stamps and sealing the envelopes, but she also kept me on track because she was waiting for me to get those addresses on so she could do her part with them. It gave us time to chat while we were doing them and ended up being fun instead of a holiday chore this year.
Simplify the Holiday Baking
This year we decided to skip the big baking day and make easy treats instead. Although I usually love holiday baking, this year I focused more on creating knitted gifts than my typical holiday treat box. Fortunately, we found a fun holiday treat that we could make that didn’t require a bit of baking, but was just as delicious. On the Ritz Holiday Parade site, we found an easy recipe for Mint Thins to create together that tasted just like one of our favorite cookie treats, but were made with Ritz Crackers, chocolate, and crushed candy canes.
It just goes to show that making holiday treats doesn’t have to be an elaborate baking day. My kids loved helping to crush (and eat!) the candy canes for our cookies and we enjoyed eating these while watching, “A Christmas Story,” this year. Yet another simple and easy tradition is born!
Simplify the Gift Giving
I often talk about our commitment to do the Four Gift Rule, but this year we took it a step further and asked the kids if they would like to skip the presents and just take a family adventure together. We gave them lots of options for places we could take a mini-vacation to and they chose a trip to Grand Rapids, Michigan for our holiday getaway. We are so excited to take in all of the museums, holiday lights, ice skating, and see the sites of the city.
If your kids are struggling to come up with gifts this year or your home is overrun with just too much stuff, consider creating your very own, “Choose Your Own Adventure,” vacation in lieu of gifts. Not only did I have a lot less to buy this year, but I also get to spend four days with my family making incredible memories that I hope they will remember forever.
Start planning and dreaming ahead for next year though because those vacation rentals do go quickly!
Focus On the Fun
Ritz wants to bring back the fun for the holidays and this year they have created a fun interactive Ritz Parade where you can visit the site and build your very own float. You can add up to twelve items on your float from toys, characters, celebrations, and banners. The pieces can be scaled to your desired size and placed anywhere on your float. Once it is complete, you can share your holiday float with others. It’s a fun little interactive tool that you can use to keep the kids busy while you are putting those last minute touches on those holiday festivities. Since we adopted a cat this year, we loved making a float of her for our holiday parade. I am sure this illustrates just how special she has become to all of us!
In addition, the Ritz parade allows consumers to unlock deals to help decrease the stress of gift buying! You can check out all the deals here!
Just in case you may have gotten the idea that handmade gifts were only possible for the “big” gifts on our list, I wanted to share with you that it’s possible to make some fun, easy, and even last-minute diy stocking stuffers. You know, to go along with all those gold coins and such. So I’ve gathered some stocking-sized Mom Advice projects that have garnered lots of smiles over the years as well as some projects from other lovely blogs and websites to give you diy stocking ideas in four categories to cover all your age group needs:
Stocking stuffers for girls
Stocking stuffers for guys
Stocking stuffers for kids
Stocking stuffers for everyone
Some can be completed in minutes (literally), some need a bit more planning (but just a bit), and all really are easy and can save you money, always a plus during the holidays, right?
I love sharing ideas for cute hostess gifts and today’s gift idea is a free pattern for a wine hat and scarf that you can use to adorn bottles of wine or champagne for your favorite hostess over the holiday season.
Walmart challenged me to create a New Year’s Eve craft and I immediately thought of a fun way to decorate a bottle of bubbly or wine for the holidays. I love this project so much because these are so fun to create and can be decorated in any combination of yarn colors and you can even experiment with stitches and hat toppers.
You may recall that I made knitted sweater coffee cozies for our teacher & bus driver gifts this year? I used the Red Heart Super Savers yarn and I still had some left despite wrapping all my holiday gifts in the yarn, knitting hair bows for gifts (coming soon!) and even making my yarn ball ornaments. I can’t believe how many projects you can create with just $2.47 of yarn!
I wanted to create a festive gift I could share with others when I attend our holiday gatherings this year. What is more festive than tiny hats and scarves for your wine bottles?
Modifications Were Made to The Featured Pattern. Please Read Carefully!
I tried a few different needle sizes since the pattern said you could use a few different sizes, I recommend going with the largest size (US 8) recommended because it created the fullest scarf (the red one in the back was done on US 8 needles). There were also some interesting stitches in the pattern for the scarf and I tried it three different ways (recommended, my own way, and then a simple stockinette). I loved just simply doing a simple stockinette (knit one row, purl one row- repeating) with the US 8 needles. The scarf will curl in a bit, but I think it added more texture to the top of the bottle. You can, of course, experiment with what you think looks best though.
These tiny hats are knitted on double-pointed needles. If you haven’t tried using double-pointed needles before, this is a perfect project to try them on. You can find a few tips from me over here on needle recommendations and getting started! Don’t be scared, it is easier than you think!
While you are buying it, you might as well as buy the larger size because you will be just as addicted to me as pom-pom making!
I hope you all have the best holiday season and that a few of the projects I have shared on MomAdvice have helped with your gift-giving this year! Cheers to you, friends!
Grab the Pattern HERE on Ravelry (FREE!). Don’t forget to friend me while you are there! I love new knitting buddies! Oh, and here are 54 MORE Handmade Gift Ideas to get you thinking about crafting this holiday season!