Posted on

How to make your own Dough Ornaments at Home!

Often called salt dough or bread dough, we call our completely handcrafted Christmas tree decorations “Dough Ornaments” .

There are many ways to make dough ornaments, and many recipes. This is how we’ve been creating them for 37 years!

Calliope Designs recipe for Dough Ornaments
1 cup all purpose flour
½ cup salt
½ cup water

For a natural color dough, mix these ingredients together, then knead the dough for at least 10 minutes. The desired consistency is a smooth dough, similar to real bread dough – not too sticky, not to dry. The exact portions of flour, salt and water are not as important as the consistency of the dough – so if it’s too sticky add more flour, if it’s too dry ad more water.
Place the dough in a plastic bag and protect it from getting dried out.
If you like to work with the natural colored dough, after the ornaments are formed and baked, you can paint them with acrylic paints.

For colored dough, you can use liquid or paste food coloring which should be added to the liquid measurement, then mixed into the dry ingredients. If you have access to powered non toxic paints such as the type school children use, mix the dry color into the flour and salt mixture before adding water.
Experiment with different amounts of color. In general, the wet dough will be the color of the finished ornament after it is baked and glazed.

There are many ways to form the ornaments, and many books have been written on the subject. Please click on the section on our home page entitled How to Make Dough ornaments. This will show you two photos of our ornaments being constructed. You can see some of the common household tools we use to make dough ornaments. A kitchen knife, garlic press, toothpicks, and dough roller are a few. There is also a link to the Morton Salt Book called Dough It Yourself Handbook Rises Again, which has the very best instructions and lots of great examples and tips.

When your dough ornaments have been formed we recommend you bake them in a 225 degree oven until they are completely hardened. Sometimes this can take all night! They will not burn at this temperature. They have to be thoroughly dried through and through in order to be preserved.
After the ornaments are baked/dried and cooled it is time to glaze them. We prefer a shiny coating and so we use a high gloss polyurethane, and we dip our ornaments. We give them at least 4 coats of polyurethane, letting them dry for at least 24 hrs. between each coating. We trim off the drips using a sharp knife or razor blade.

Always store your dough ornaments in an airtight container in a dry place inside your home. No attics or basements please! You can personalize them too using a fine tip permanent marker.
By the way, we learned how to make dough ornaments at a Christmas party at the home of John and Kathleen Holmes, Mill Valley, California! It was a really fun evening!

Posted on

Ruth Azawa, Sculptor and Inspiration for Calliope Designs

Fountain in Santa Rosa

Ruth Azawa, an American artist, died on August 6,2013.  She was a woman who devoted her life to art and became very well known for her sculptures in wire, and her public commissions, especially her fountains which are found all over the San Francisco Bay Area.  There is one in Santa Rosa in our town center depicting scenes from Santa Rosa, the surrounding wine country, and our local history.

Ms. Azawa was, unknowingly, an inspiring force in the development of our products for Calliope Designs.

She had completed her famous fountain sculpture of the streets of San Francisco which is located near Union Square at the side of the Hyatt Hotel.  It’s quite large, and shows all kinds of fun scenes – the Hills of San Francisco, the famous Winding Way of Lombard Street, the Palace Hotel, Legion of Honor, riding the cable car, and the Cliff House at the Beach are just a few of the many to find.  Tourists from all over the world come to see and photograph the fountain and enjoy it’s whimsicality.

I believe the fountain is made of cast metal which had been poured into a mold of the scenes just mentioned.  Then the pieces were put together to form the fountain.  But the interesting thing to us was that the mold itself, and everything and everyone on it, was originally made of  “baker’s clay” or “bread dough”.  And following the installation of the fountain, a popular Home and Garden magazine, Sunset Magazine, did an article on Ruth making the fountain and using “baker’s clay” and then she gave her recipe for the clay/dough and showed how she made some of the figurines.

It was this article that inspired our friends, John and Kathleen Holmes, to have a fun party at their home to make our own “sculptures”  – and since it was close to Christmas, we later thought of this as a way to make Christmas gifts!  The night we had the sculpture party was quite fun – half of the people there were artists, but even the less artistically gifted guests, such as myself, were able to form figures and create some pretty fun little items.

That year we made so many of these little figurines, and gave them away at Christmas time.  With the positive response we received from family and friends we were encouraged the following year to join the Great Dickens Faire of San Francisco to sell the wares from a tiny cart.  The Dickens Fair is still going on, 44 years later, and we’ve been to every single one.  As well as having a business that sold to gift shops and department stores all over the world!

Twenty years later the City of Santa Rosa commissioned Ruth Azawa to create a fountain for our downtown city center plaza.  She accepted saying she would like to have the children of Santa Rosa participate in making the baker’s clay figurines to be used in the fountain’s design.  For several months it was our delight to give boxes and boxes of our colored dough to the local schools that had been selected to participate.  We worked with the teachers giving tips and techniques so that the kids could have some practice in using the materials.  When Ms. Azawa came to Santa Rosa she had many willing and excited school children to help with her project.

The fountain is an integral part of our City and it’s lovely center plaza, and we are proud to have been an influence to her project.

Posted on

40 Years Being Part of Our Community

Over the years Calliope Designs has had the opportunity to give back to our community in Santa Rosa California, and throughout Sonoma County.  When a business becomes involved with giving of time, products, or money, it enlivens the spirit of the employees of the business as well, and gives them the feeling of generosity and contribution.

For many holidays  our employees conducted a food drive to create some lovely holiday dinners for our local women’s shelters.  Most of our employees were women, and most of them had families. They filled the baskets with pumpkin for pies, loaves of bread for turkey stuffing, cranberry sauce and applesauce, canned yams, and canned peas.  And other products too.  We always added a turkey at the end!  This gift from each one of them became a beautiful tradition.  Calliope Designs accompanied the baskets of ingredients for a special meal with dozens of our handcrafted dough ornaments, and sent special instructions and pens with each basket so the ornaments could be personalized for the children in the shelters.  Our employees were proud of their work, and proud that their beautiful creations that were donated at Christmas time to someone less fortunate.

As a company we became known as a destination tour for girl scout and boy scout troops, classrooms, art schools, and nursery schools throughout Sonoma County as well.  We often had two or three tours a week, especially during the Autumn and pre Thanksgiving.  Groups would come to our business building and be carefully led through the “factory” where  the dough was mixed in many colors.  The children were each given a piece of dough to carry around and squeeze and roll!  They loved the tactile soft feel of the salt and flour dough.  Then they were taken to the tables were our talented employees formed the ornaments.  The kids were fascinated with the process and quietly watched as Santas, Snowmen, Penguins, and Teddy Bears were hand pieced into adorable ornaments.  After they were made the children loved seeing trays of ornaments placed in the huge pizza ovens we had which held over 2000 ornaments – a day’s production.

We toured the shipping department where ornaments were carefully packed for shipment to gift shops and department stores.  The children really loved our pellet dispenser which hung from the ceiling…. because we called it Big Bird!  They enjoyed seeing the boxes piled up at the back door, waiting for UPS to come and pick them up and send them on their way.

And the end of the tour there was always a box of bags of different colored “bread” dough for the teacher or troop leader to take back to class.  We imagined a wonderful art session the next day where everyone got to make a creation of their choice.

As the years went on the word went out to the teachers of Sonoma County that our company was happy to donate our left over colored clay to schools for art projects.  We always made fresh dough every single day.  It kept the colors vibrant and kept yeast from developing in the flour causing distortions in baking the ornaments.  We had so many teachers calling to pick up left over “dough” that we had to make a schedule.  It was really fun to make this contribution, and we still get calls from teachers asking for dough – unfortunately we now make the ornaments from polymer clay!  But we pass out the recipe when anyone asks.

 

Posted on

Today’s a Good Day to Shop for Personalized Ornaments!

Today is  Sunday, October 6th, 2013, and it’s  a good day to shop for your family’s personalized ornaments for the upcoming holiday season!  I’ve just been informed by the men in my family that there are 14 hours of televised professional football today.  And while there are probably lots of fun things the non football viewing population can do other than shop, we at Calliope Designs notice that when the big football games come on TV the orders start coming in on our website.  Maybe football means Fall and the holidays approaching.  Maybe it’s just having some free time.

I hesitate to make a general statement that’s gender oriented – there are many women who love football and the games and parties!  And there are many men who like to shop for personalized ornaments!  Whoever sends in the orders is enjoying a nice relaxing session of online shopping, choosing just the perfect ornament for each family member, personalizing it with care, and getting absolutely the best selection available before the rush of the holiday season.  All of our new products are entered and pictured.

If you’re not ready to shop for Christmas perhaps you’d enjoy a project of making some ornaments with your kids.  Be sure and search our blog for How To Make Your Own Dough Ornaments at Home post.  What a fun project, inexpensive materials, great results…. and not too messy in the kitchen.  This means everyone’s having fun doing something they love on this Sunday afternoon.

It’s a drop dead gorgeous day in California and I plan to attend the Calabash Festival in Forestville CA.  It’s a benefit for Face to Face, a food resource for HIV/AIDS patients in the county.  Over 100 artists have created beautiful items from gourds of all shapes and sizes.  Some are painted.  Some are carved.  Some are created into toys, others into beautiful decorative pieces.  There is jewelry and there are hats.  It’s amazing and fun and fanciful… and for a good cause.  So I’ll miss the football games today.

 

 

Posted on

A Grandparent’s Wreath Gift for Christmas

We all know it can be hard to find just the right gift for Grandparents.  They seem to be at the time of life where they have “everything” and don’t really want more.  They say they “don’t need anything” and sometimes that’s true.  Yet when the holidays come around they are often high on our shopping lists because they have been so super all year long, helping with our children, inviting us for holiday meals, making cookies for the family, and in all ways loving and helpful.  We know they adore they grandchildren and spoil them to death.  And often, the children want to find their sweet Nana and Poppa something special as a gift.

Here’s an idea that came from a customer many years ago.  A Grandparent’s Wreath.  Purchase a nice quality artificial Christmas wreath suitable for hanging on a door or on a wall inside the home.  The size should be up to you, but be sure to purchase some pretty ribbon to make a bow, or purchase a pre made bow that is large and pretty on the green wreath.  If you are adventurous, buy a strand of mini lights to wrap around the wreath and plug in for added brightness.

Now, spend some fun time with your children shopping online for some personalized Christmas ornaments for Grandma and Grandpa. We have lots of cute reasonably priced items at www.calliopedesigns.com.   Let each child pick one ornament that will have their name on it – and don’t forget the year.  When they arrive, have the children help you decide where to affix them onto the wreath.  Make it a strong permanent attachment so the ornaments can stay on the wreath year after year.

The first year the wreath might be sparse, but you can choose to add an ornament each year and soon the wreath will be a collection of memories of each child as they grow and experience new things.  For instance, if you have one child, a girl, you can start with a cute photo frame ornament of her first Christmas.  Then progress to Baby Girl’s First Steps, and the next Christmas – She’s Potty Trained.  Yes we have a cute ornament for that.  There’s one for losing the first tooth.  And first day of school.  All sports and hobbies can be represented by an ornament, as well as special achievements and vacations.

Another way to start the wreath collection is to involve your siblings so that all of the grandchildren are represented on the wreath!

If you feel the wreath is getting too expensive, please read our blog on How to make your Own Dough Ornaments at home.  We give the recipe and tips to create fun designs.  Each child can create something that is special.

This will become a fun tradition that the children will look forward to and the Grandparents are sure to treasure.

Posted on

April’s Sugar Cookie Recipe

I love your ornaments, I buy at least one every year! Last year we moved early December from Turkey to Texas (we are military) and we did not receive our household goods until new year’s eve. So the only ornament we had on our little substitute tree last year was the one I bought from your company! Here is the recipe for the sugar cookies and my mom’s famous Christmas candies!

 

April sends her favorite Sugar Cookie recipe to go with her guest blog post:

Mix:    Mix separately:

in one bowl:
½ tsp baking soda
½ tsp salt

3 1/2 cups flour

—————-

in 2 nd bowl:

1 cup butter

1 cup sugar

2 eggs

½ tsp vanilla

Mix both sets of ingredients together.
Refrigerate overnight
After cutting your shapes, bake at 400° for 6 to 8 minutes

Frosting:
1 ½ sticks Crisco
2 lbs powdered sugar
1 Tbsp vanilla
1 Tbsp butter flavoring
Add warm water until you reach your desired consistency.

 

 

April’s Mom’s Favorite Christmas Candy recipes!

Christmas Candies

Chocolate Covered Peanuts:
Melt 1lb chocolate and mix with 1 bag Spanish peanuts. Drop into ¾” candy cups.

Peanut Butter Bites:
Melt 1lb peanut butter chocolate and mix with 1 cup crunchy peanut butter. Drop into ¾” candy cups.

Mint Candies:
Melt 1lb white chocolate and mix with 1 bag peppermint stick. Drop into ¾” candy cups.

Posted on

Best Rolled Sugar Cookie recipe for your Christmas Craft project

Jill Saunders posts a sugar cookie recipe on Allrecipes.com.  She recommends handing out the recipe with your gift of cookies because you’ll be asked for it!  It must be really good and it’s sure to be tried at our home soon.  We wanted to post a good recipe to go with April Bruinekool’s guest blog post.

Original recipe makes 5 dozen Change Servings:

  • 1 1/2 cups butter, softened

  • 2 cups white sugar

  • 4 eggs

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 5 cups all-purpose flour

  • 2 teaspoons baking powder

  • 1 teaspoon salt

Check All Add to Shopping List

Directions

  1. In a large bowl, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cover, and chill dough for at least one hour (or overnight).
  2. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (200 degrees C). Roll out dough on floured surface 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into shapes with any cookie cutter. Place cookies 1 inch apart on ungreased cookie sheets.
  3. Bake 6 to 8 minutes in preheated oven. Cool completely.
Posted on

Christmas Craft Memories Guest Blog Post by April!

My daughter is a year and a half old. I am so excited to be able to begin doing crafty things with her like my siblings and I used to do with my mom! For Halloween our major project was our pumpkins. We wouldn’t carve them, we use to paint them. Painting them gave us so much more freedom in choosing our designs, and the pumpkins lasted longer. For Thanksgiving we would make turkeys from our hand prints. Christmas was always my favorite. We would make different ornaments. We made snowmen with popsicle sticks, reindeer with clothes pins, and we would buy plain white globes to paint. As much fun as all that was, my favorite activity for all three holidays is making sugar cookies. Preparing the dough, cutting the shapes, and then decorating them with all the different colors of icing.

Thank you to guest blogger April Bruinekool.

 

 

Posted on

Baby’s First Christmas Stocking Stuffer Ideas

Your baby’s First Christmas will be exciting and fun for Mommy and Daddy, and certainly happy for your child as well.  Is a Christmas Stocking part of your family’s tradition?  Did you have a fun time picking out just the right stocking and maybe have it personalized with the baby’s name?  We hope you purchased a big stocking, because as your child gets older, the stocking stuffers get larger too!   We encourage you to add, as the first gift in your baby’s Christmas stocking, a personalized Baby’s First Christmas ornament from Calliope Designs.com.  We have so many cute ones to choose from.  You can even have one that is All About Baby, with his or her birth stats, name, and holiday greeting all done to order.

Here are some suggestions for stocking stuffers for baby by age:

Newborn to 3 months old:

– A new Binkie!  Maybe a red, green, and white one just for Christmas day and all of the fun photos that will be taken.

– Cute baby socks with ruffles and pink for little girls, and trucks and blue for little boys.  You can never have too many newborn socks.

– A cute Christmas onsie, decorated with cute pictures of ornaments, a Christmas tree, reindeer or Santa.  Also good for those wonderful Christmas photo sessions.

– A board book such as Goodnight Moon, or Global Babies.  It’s never too early to start reading to your little one and teach them a love of books and reading.  And so many baby board books are available now.

– A cute chewable stuffed animal or creature!  Something that has texture, scratchy, soft, smooth, and something that has bright colors.

– A not too noisy rattle or something baby can wrap a little hand around and shake.  Just make sure it’s not too hard and won’t hurt if banged against a little head or face.

– A sweet music cd to play at bedtime.  Something soothing, with a good clear beat and rhythm, like ethnic music. Idea: Dreamland, World Lullabies and Soothing Songs.

– A teething ring for those coming months.

From 3-9 months:

– A Whozit!  A favorite interactive stuffed funny faced toy loved by many children.  (We needed 3, one for car, one for purse, one for home)

– Again, small board books. Baby can now turn pages and look at books on his or her own, but other fun books that can be read from the backseat passenger.

– CD’s for the car.  Seasame Street Favorites, Pete Seeger: Folk Songs for Young People, Peter Paul and Mommy, The Beattles 1, and other fun sing alongs.

– More socks

– A cute Christmas T-Shirt with matching tights or pants.

– New mittens and cap for snowy days outside

– Healthy treats for baby.

– New toothbrush

– A sippy cup

– A new tiny teddy bear.

 

From 9 months to a year:

– Socks or slippers with treads or traction on the bottom, for those early attempts at walking.

– Christmas Sweat Shirt, with matching pants or tights.  Always be thinking about those Christmas photos.

– Bath toy, a new rubber ducky perhaps?

– Bath mitt and fun gooey tub paints.

– Teething rings and toothbrush.

– Board books of colors and shapes

– Music CDs for bedtime and in the car.

-Fun age appropriate healthy packaged snacks and drinks.

 

These are just getting started ideas.  Of course, it’s not necessary to go overboard with gifts and toys for a child this age.  Your time is the most valuable gift you can give your baby, and lots of hugs, kisses, and special times together.

Posted on

Another Milestone Accomplished – A Driver’s License is Obtained!

As our children grow up there are so many milestones we celebrate!  (Of course we have personalized ornaments for all of them!)   It’s walking, talking, potty training.  Riding a tricycle, then a two wheeler.  First Day of School.  First lost tooth.  Then Braces!  Each little step moving through childhood toward  becoming grown up is acknowledged along the way with pride and fun traditions.

Many of these milestones are more important to the parents than they are to the child.  But when it comes to getting a Driver’s License, that’s a big one – for that is long anticipated, studied for, practiced for, and really is one of the first true steps to independence. That’s why we have special personalized driver’s license Christmas ornaments to mark this occasion.  The ornament is a picture of a driver’s license, with a girl or boy’s head on it, and a big car key!  We add the name and the year, and the state to make it like a real driver’s license.

In California a student can get a learner’s permit at age 15 1/2.  They are required to study the California Driver’s Manual with all of the laws of the road and to take and pass a lengthy examination.  The student also is required to take a certain number of hours of private driver’s instruction from a certified organization.  California used to offer driver’s training classes in the public high school system, but budgetary restrictions have taken those classes off the roster.  It is now up the the student and parents to find and pay for private instruction.  After having the permit and passing the 16th birthday mark, the student can apply for a real driver’s license, and can enjoy driving to school, classes, sports events, and the like.  There is still one restriction.  A newly licensed driver cannot drive with other kids in the car for six months!  The state of California feels this restriction has lowered the amount of teen driving accidents overall.

Here’s an amazing idea:  Give your student a driver’s license ornament and attach the keys to a car Christmas gift to the ornament!  Imagine his or her surprise on Christmas morning when the little box with an ornament is opened in front of the family.  Yes, some confusion, what is this?  An ornament?  Ohhhh it’s a car key!  And the car is waiting out in front of the house.  What a fun Christmas morning for your new teen driver.  Thank you Mom (Mrs. Claus) and Dad (Santa)!  And Merry Christmas with safe driving ahead.