Salt Dough

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      Thanks for your kind thoughts, tj. laurie, i’m adoptable but come
      with four sons, all of whom i’m constantly praised for their great
      manners and one who seems to have lost his waist and thinks it’s
      below his tush (aargghh!); an enormous scaredy cat with long
      fur, named toffee (who the kids insist is “li’l baby”), and a very
      much in use computer. oh, and the son who has lost his waist
      comes with a basketball, and the youngest has special needs too–
      his skateboard and a place to use it!


      mari-lou, you asked for more info on salt dough and whether i
      use molds or free-form them. thanks for your compliment on my
      ideas, btw. the gift baskets are really easy.

      you know, it’s funny.
      i had thought after i sent the post yesterday that i should have
      added the other gift basket that came to mind–for gardening.
      mine is a bit different than the one suggested, so i’ll toss this in
      and then answer about the salt dough.

      for the gardening basket, i’d look into finding a nice large pot.
      you might luck out and find a terra cotta one at a garage sale,
      but don’t overlook those shiny steel buckets and other containers
      that can end up as planters with some stones in the base or even
      some holes poked in the bottom. even a planter box would do
      perfectly! i think i’ll talk about the planter box since i’ve seen
      those as cheap as $3 at Family Dollar, and I know you can get
      the holders for another $1-2.

      Buy a bag of the good soil (I get
      this at the dollar store…for $1, of course), and lay that in the
      box. Add a pair of gardening gloves ($3?), a trowel which you
      can get at the dollar store ($1) and then decide whether you’re
      giving a spice or flower planter box–or both. You can usually
      get 8-10 packets of seeds for $1 at the dollar store too, so if
      you have a budget of $15, you’ll stay under the limit even if you
      find a pretty plastic or metal or china miniature watering can at
      the dollar store or a garage sale.

      Even the Salvation Army has
      these at times. I’ve got one, for instance, that’s metal–a former
      creamer, but it’s ideal! The other one I have is a watering can
      made from china and painted a pretty red.

      Are there little things
      you see at the dollar store that would be ideal for such a garden?
      You should have enough to get one or two still. Mint, btw, does
      very well in these boxes, as do marjoram and thyme. Delicate
      flowers like impatiens also will do well in these.

      lol I’ve got lots
      of these ideas just welling up, I’m afraid!

      Okay, the salt dough. There are various ways you can do the
      recipe itself, depending on what you’re going to make. The
      standard one I use comes from a dear friend in Germany, and
      it’s been very successful for me for several years.

      Blend 2 cups of flour with 1 cup of salt and 3/4 cup of water. If
      you want it smoother after you make the first batch, increase the
      salt to 2 cups. Mix it well.

      If you want it thicker, for freestanding
      work, as I did for a gift one year when I gave a friend a Madonna
      and child painted in gold, you’ll want to have the flour measured
      to at least double the salt.

      Now, if you have something specific in mind that you’re looking
      to make, decide whether you’re going to want it white or slightly
      off white as I’ve given you above. You can add a little cornstarch
      and a bit more water to make the dough whiter if you’d like, but
      perhaps you’d like to make something brown, as one of my sons
      did for a school project one year when he had to make a physical
      map of the state? You might want to add a bit of color to part of
      the batch to enhance the texturing potential.

      Add some coffee
      in place of the water, and you’ll have the brown.

      Another of my sons, when we were living in Phoenix, had to make
      a diorama for school. He used a shoebox for the project, and
      created a desert scene with animals and trees and cactus–
      totally out of the salt dough.

      When you make the wall hangings or free standing creations,
      use a cookie sheet and fresh foil on the bottom of the sheet,
      and work right on this as your work space and the means through
      which you’ll bake these. You *can*, especially in the desert areas,
      leave them out in the sun for natural baking, but for those in the
      north and southeast, this isn’t always a feasible idea. I’ll put the
      baking info at the end of this.

      Interested in making a tree for hanging on the wall perhaps?
      Section some of the dough for the leaves and add a little green
      food coloring. Form the leaves individually, and use a toothpick
      to press the veins ever so gently into these leaves before you
      add them to the tree base, the latter of which you, of course,
      used *dark* coffee in forming the trunk. You can texture the
      trunk by making it a bit thicker and ridging it with the toothpick.
      Are you interested in having berries on the tree?

      Again section
      some of the dough for the berries, add cranberry juice, mix, and
      you’ll have the naturally colored berries. Grab a paperclip and
      open it so it looks like an S. Press the longer part of the S into
      the dough so it’s completely covered, and leave the upper part
      out just enough so it can be hung.

      If you’ve ever been a child with the delights of playing in the snow,
      you’ll remember snow angels. These are easy! Grab the rolling
      pin, roll it to about 1/4-inch thick, use a knife or a cookie cutter to
      do the shaping, and press the S into the back of the angel before
      you do any possible texturing on the wings.

      The S that’s extended
      will be perfect for slipping an ornament hanger on for holiday

      Now, do you remember paper dolls? Here’s where you can get
      really creative! I’ve had more fun by doing these free form than
      I ever would have had in doing them with pre-shapes, and what’s
      special is people love them more because you put your heart in
      these creations.

      They’re one of a kind. I’m going to warn you,
      however, that once you make these that follow, the first one will
      steal your heart, and you’ll be hooked!

      During WWII, there were elderly women who often roamed the
      Bavarian forests of Germany. If we in the contemporary world
      saw them today, we might call them bag ladies, but they weren’t.
      There is an Old World charm to these ladies as you’re about to
      discover. I don’t remember now what they were called in the
      stories I’ve heard, but these would have been like the old
      grandmothers who perhaps rummaged the forests for berries
      and mushrooms and the like since food was so scarce.

      Form the legs, torso, arms and head, of course, with a flat back
      on the cookie sheet. On the head, form a a small ball, and
      press it in the center of the head where the nose will go. Next,
      make two tiny balls.

      These will be the eyes. With your toothpick,
      form the eyes, and then press these balls in for where the color
      of the eyes will be. Next, form the mouth.

      Don’t worry if the
      mouth is a bit misshaped because you think you’re not a good
      artist. This is one of those times when you don’t have to be!
      If her mouth is a little open, that’s fine. Let some of those
      teeth show then. She’s never going to win a beauty contest
      in Miss Universe, but she’s going to be gorgeous to you!

      fact, it’s super if her mouth is open. You want her happy and

      Separate the legs (and I hope you remembered to add the
      feet!) and bow them a little. Even though you won’t be able
      to see the bowed legs much, there will be just enough showing
      to let admirers realize this. Shape a little dough around her
      feet, and those are her boots.

      Think army style for these. 🙂

      At her waist, place her skirt. Make sure it’s full. This skirt
      should come far enough down to show what would amount
      to about 3 inches of leg on us.

      Form a shorter skirt and add
      it to the first skirt. The third layer isn’t a skirt but an apron,
      so of course that too will be shorter yet.

      Form a boxy kind of jacket and bend her arms to the center,
      where the waist is, so her hands would be together. In her
      hands, you’ll have formed (before you move the hands, sorry)
      a large pouch like what we could call a carpet bag, which may
      well be what this was.

      If you have a little wire, like copper wire, form her spectacles
      with this. If not, head for those paper clips, and force a paper
      clip into shape in the form of spectacles. Don’t forget the
      sides to these.

      Decide how much hair, if any, will show between her floppy
      hat. I’ve done several different ways with this part of her

      Press a paper clip in the back, so the top half of the clip is
      just about level with her shoulders. She probably doesn’t
      have a neck. You wouldn’t be able to tell if she did because
      of all those clothes!


      After you bake her, again, baking instructions will be at the
      bottom of all this, you can paint her. Add just a tad of red
      paint with a LOT of water added to the tip of her nose
      because she enjoys her schnapps, and a little to her cheeks.
      Add a little less water to the blue, but do add some. Paint
      the colored portion of her eye blue, and then add a little
      more water to make the eyes more natural and sparkly.

      Be colorful and creative with her, but be sure to make her
      boots black. The more color the better, and make it vibrant.
      Don’t be afraid to overcolor. She’ll need it!

      Experiment with other doll wall hangings–the skinny school
      teacher, the old tennis player. They all start from the basic
      instructions I gave you above. Let your imagination fly free
      on this, and have fun with it!

      Bake your creations in a 250? F/121? C oven and expect it
      to take at least 2 hours, but it could be as long as 6,
      depending on the thickness of your creations.

      Just keep
      an eye on the baking process so they don’t brown till you
      want them to brown with natural colors or with the paints.

      After these are cooled and painted, if you go that route,
      use lacquer and seal *everything* on these, not just the
      front, but the back too. Be liberal with this because it
      will preserve your creations. After the lacquer is dry,
      finish it off with acrylic spray, and you’re ready to give
      it away–or selfishly hang on your own wall!


      Btw, when my oldest turned 11, because John McEnroe
      was coming to town for an exhibition match which was
      on his birthday (my son and McEnroe share the day),
      my son, who was a bit of a tennis star at that age, got a
      gift from McEnroe–courtside seats at the match. Shawn
      and I decided we’d make something special for Mac, so
      we created a salt dough hanging for him–and it looked
      like him. It was great fun, as you’ll discover!

      Hope you’ll enjoy doing these as much as we have.


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