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a holiday craft

In the last week of the year, when it feels like the days run together, and pj wearing multiplies from one day to the next, this fun craft is something anyone can do together - to create memories and savor the holidays just a little bit longer.

The fun thing about this craft is you can take it in a million different directions. But to get you started, here is what you will need:

- Polymer clay (I usually go with white, but you can buy a variety of colors. It depends on whether you plan to paint or carve into your clay. One idea is to get several colors and mix them all together - creating a marbled look).

- cookie cutters or a jar (I used a small jar top to cut out the round ornament you see above. If you are interested in the state cutters I got mine from this shop).

- a rolling pin

- a cookie sheet

- parchment paper

- an oven

- a pencil (if you want to sketch out or carve into your clay prior to baking. You can also use it to make the hole to hang your ribbon. I prefer to use a chopstick)

- acrylic paints and paintbrush (optional - only if you plan to paint)

- ribbon or twine for hanging

Polymer clay is really easy to use. Break off a piece and warm up in your hands or use a blow dryer to make it soft. I like to layer the clay between two pieces of parchment while I start to roll out the clay. This probably takes the most amount of work. And a little tip, keep flipping the clay as you roll. You will want to clay to be about 1/4 inch before you use your cutters.

Once you get it to the desired thickness, you will want to check the clay for smoothness and verify that your cutter actually fits the clay you have prepped. Place the cookie cutter onto the clay and push down. To make sure the cookie cutter has fully gone through the clay, I like to press down with my rolling pin and roll over the cutter.

For cleaner edges, I like to pull the excess clay away from the cutter and then lift the cut portion. A lot of times, the clay will come up with the cutter. Just gently remove and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment.

Check the instructions on the packaging for baking temps and times, but I generally do around 250 degrees for 15 minutes. If you are going to carve into your ornament this is the time to do it. Just gently etch the design in the top with your pencil (I like to use a mechanical pencil and I make sure it is empty so the lead isn't showing). If not, be sure to place a decent size hole in the top before baking for hanging on the tree. I like to use the end of a chopstick, but your pencil will work as well.

If your ornaments come out and don't look as smooth around the edges as you would like, just sand with some sand paper and wash with soap and water. Now you are ready to paint. Here are a couple of tips:

- decide on your design ahead of time and sketch out with a pencil if you like

- choose your colors and don't forget you can layer - in the above example, I start with the darkest color and move to the lightest. The great thing about acrylic paints is they dry quickly - so you don't have to wait too long between layers.

And if you choose to etch a design into your ornament and want it to stand out, use a paint pen or a small paint brush to get into the etching - like I did here.

The last step is to string with ribbon or twine and you are done.

This really is a fun project that anyone can enjoy!

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