See all of these pretty presents?! I MADE them. Except I didn't really. I doodled designs and then uploaded them to Shutterfly to make beautiful personalized gifts for people I love! And I gilded the lily by throwing in the most delicious homemade Christmas candy. Best part? Both are super quick and easy. High five! Read on.
I am so excited to share this project with you because it brought me so much joy from start to finish. I really like to paint, and love the idea of giving something I made myself as Christmas gifts. But I really don't have the space, time or energy right now for large-scale present production. (Although, I did feel like an elf today when I accidentally inhaled a whole lot of candy cane dust...)
Perhaps you hear Shutterfly and think of photo books (which I give my hubby every year as a Pallian family yearbook) and family photo Christmas cards (which I also make and send every year). But as I was exploring their collection of home decor and gifts, it dawned on me that all I needed was a photo to do the creative gifting I always wanted to do. I mean, it sounds obvious, but the possibilities of what you can do with a picture suddenly came rushing to me. I realized I could pick a little doodle in my sketchbook, take a close-up photograph, and blow it up into enormous wall art. And then from that single photo I could create beautiful watercolour pillows, prints, plates, mugs and ornaments. Suddenly I was inundated with inspiration. The excitement actually kept me up that night.
The next day, I grabbed my pens and little watercolour palette. I called my friend Sarah to join me, poured some wine, and we got to doodling. I basically splashed and flicked watercolour paint on wet paper until I came up with a couple of designs I liked. I chose a few of my favourite items on Shutterfly - the beautiful gold-handled mugs, the framed prints, the canvas prints, the melamine plates, the tree ornaments, the throw pillows (!) - and uploaded the pics I snapped of my artwork.
For the greenery design, those branches you see were actually part of a much bigger painting, but the boughs were my favourite part - so I just narrowed in on that one corner of my doodle in Shutterfly (where you can easily crop your photo to fit your project). I did the same with the watercolour splashes - I just moved the crop frame around to get a different design for each mug, painting, etc. so that although I used the same painting, each gift would actually be unique. I'm no artist, but I'm pretty giddy with how they turned out! Do you like?!
My friend Marnie was over this weekend, and although she'll be a recipient, I was so excited about the plates (the first shipment I received) that I couldn't resist showing her. She loved them and suggested it would be a great thing to do to immortalize a child's refrigerator artwork. Don't you think that's a genius idea?
Since then, I've been thinking that you could actually make a tradition of having your kids draw a little Christmas scene every year. Turn their doodles into a tree ornament or a plate to keep and give to your family members, then as the kids grow, so does the collection of these sweet illustrations. Like precious frozen moments in time. I'm totally going to do that. I actually get teary at the thought of pulling my 3-year-old's scribbly snowman out of the box for all Christmases to come. So special.
I also think it would be beautiful to do something like paint your children's hands with gold acrylic paint and have them make gilded handprints on white (or pastel pink!) paper. Snap a pic and you can make sentimental (but classy!) prints, cards, mugs, etc. Or you and/or your kids could put on red lipstick and kiss a paper then take a picture to send gifts with your kisses to everyone you love. So many fun, outside-the-box ways to create gifts with Shutterfly!
In fact, fellow bloggers/photographers/Instagrammers - speaking of outside the box - I couldn't resist another creative hack. The marble and slate surfaces you see? They're prints! Shutterfly has an expansive Art Library available for you to use on your projects. So I chose a marble and a chalkboard from their image collection and created photography backdrops out of Mounted Wall Art. I like both, but the marble especially is stunning - very realistic and extremely lightweight. It truly looks just like a marble countertop.
Now, the peppermint bark. It's kind of insane how good this stuff is. I'm a big fan of mint chocolate. But this? With the white chocolate on top of bittersweet chocolate plus the teeny crunch of crushed candy canes? It's just crazy good. And easy. As easy as microwaving, stirring, microwaving again, and sprinkling. The only important thing is to use really good chocolate bars, not chips or white chocolate buttons.
The recipe I'm giving you makes enough to give four people each a 3-oz bag but you can easily double, triple or quadruple it to make as much as you like. I've seen some recipes call for peppermint extract, but I find the crushed candy cane adds just enough mint without over-powering the chocolate, especially because I melt a bit right into the base.
In this world of retail overload, there's so much joy in making special gifts, don't you think?
- Cook Time
- Prep Time
- 5 oz good-quality dark chocolate (60-70% cocoa), chopped
- 7 oz good-quality white chocolate, chopped
- 3 candy canes, crushed
In a large microwave-safe dish, heat dark chocolate on 50% power for two minutes. Chocolate should be about 80% melted; stir to finish melting. (If not 80% melted, continue cooking in 30-second intervals at 50% power until it is.) Stir in 1 tbsp of finely crushed candy cane to melt a bit, then spread on a parchment-lined baking pan to make a rectangle of about 10x7". Transfer to freezer for 10 minutes.
Wash and dry the bowl completely. Add white chocolate to the clean bowl and repeat the same melting process. Let melted white chocolate stand at room temperature for about 5 minutes to cool, then give it a stir and pour evenly over top of cold dark chocolate, quickly spreading it to the edges using an offset spatula (or a pie lifter). You don't want the chocolate to be too cool or it will be too thick to easily spread thinly, and working it too much with the spatula will start to melt in the dark chocolate. It's ok if it happens. It will remain delicious. Sprinkle the bark with crushed candy canes and let stand at room temperature until set, about 2 hours, or overnight.
Use the parchment to lift the bark and break it into asymmetrical pieces. Store between layers of parchment or waxed paper in an airtight container for up to two weeks (or maybe longer, if it lasts!).