Almost every year since Brian and I got married, I have made a different type of Christmas ornament. One year I cut holiday shapes like snowmen, candy canes, and ball ornaments from wood and painted them. One year we made felt and sequin ornaments. One year we filled glass ball ornaments with wishes and glitter. We have painted glass ball ornaments, made Playdough ornaments, salted dough ornaments, and made snowflakes from popsicle sticks or collected twigs.
I try to make a different ornament every year, and we usually do the craft in the summer because I never have time for an extra craft during the holidays!
My Sand Dollar Christmas Ornaments one of my all time favorite Christmas ornament crafts because we found every single sand dollar while on vacation at Pismo Beach. Even the sand came from Pismo Beach. Now every time we hang these ornaments on our Christmas Tree, we’re reminded of that vacation and how much fun we had!
A Transformational Vacation
Our Pismo Beach vacation was transformational for our family. I’m not kidding. It was a turning point in how we approach vacationing and the catalyst for all of our family adventures.
This was our first big vacation after Brian got the “medically cured” diagnosis after two years of dealing with his Gallbladder Cancer. For two years we put everything in our personal and professional lives on hold. We made no big investments or spends and moved nothing forward. We were in a holding pattern and getting the amazing news that he was considered cured, was something I will never forget. This vacation was our first big family adventure post cancer.
This was the first Thanksgiving we spent on the road, on vacation, and it was glorious. I had recently developed a lactose intolerance and Brian stopped eating red meat and pork after being diagnosed with cancer, and as a result, we couldn’t eat many of our favorite Thanksgiving dishes. We also couldn’t eat the recipes our extended families make on the holiday. Thanksgiving just really lost its luster for us, so when we were invited to spend Thanksgiving in Pismo Beach with Brian’s parents, and Aunt and Uncle, we said yes right away.
It was so easy being gone for Thanksgiving that we decided this trip would be the first of many Thanksgiving vacations. Our families now know that we’re always going to be traveling on the holiday. It’s easier for us, because we manage our own food, and it’s easier for them because they don’t have to change any of their family recipes or favorite recipes to accommodate us. Plus, our entire families live close to use, so we see each other all the time anyway. Since then we have spent Thanksgiving in Disneyland, in Maui, and at Channel Islands National Park and Santa Barbara, and this year we’re going to Costa Rica.
This was also the first week-long vacation we took with the kids old enough to really adventure. We spent the whole week exploring, walking along the beach, and hiking. We visited Hearst Castle, explored sleepy seaside towns, and we drove dune buggies through the sand dunes. Yes, we had a blast driving fast, speedy dune buggies all over the famous Pismo Beach sand dunes, which just showed us that they finally old enough to start going on some more challenging adventures.
Collecting Sand Dollars And Making Ornaments
After our morning racing across the sand dunes, we met Brian’s parents at the beach. We were starving, so while their dog Lucy ran in the surf, we devoured an entire bag of mini Snickers Bars before the kids and I began collecting sand dollars. There were hundreds of them rolling in the surf all up and down the beach. Thank goodness we ate that whole bag of Snickers, because we needed the bag to hold all of our sand dollars!
I wasn’t 100% sure what I was going to do with the sand dollars while we were collecting them, but later at our hotel, decided to turn them into Christmas ornaments. We had so many, that I could glue two back to back to make two-sided ornaments, and that way I could also glue the hanging ribbon between them. I also wanted a sand element to the ornaments, so I filled one of our plastic sand toy buckets with sand from Pismo Beach to take home.
When we got home from vacation, I washed all of the sand dollars and set them out in the backyard to dry out completely under the sun. I then shook them as much as I could to get all of the sand out of the inside of the shells. I also ran the sand through a sifter to get rid of any rocks, seaweed pieces, and weird chunks.
Then it was time to make the Christmas ornaments — which was much easier than I thought!
Here’s how I made the Sand Dollar Christmas Ornaments:
- I measured and cut the hanging ribbons to size.
- I matched up pairs of sand dollars that were close to the same size.
- I covered the backside of one sand dollar with hot glue, stuck down the hanging ribbon, and placed the second sand dollar on top of it, gently squeezing them together.
- I painted ModPdge across the bottom of one side and pressed it into a bowl of sand, completely covering the ModPodge. I didn’t worry about making any type of straight or consistent line, because I wanted it to look fairly organic. Once the sand was dry, I flipped over the ornaments and repeated the process on the backside, so the bottom of both sides were coated in sand.
- I mixed fine rainbow glitter into my remaining ModPodge and painted the glitter ModPodge over the sand of one side. Once dry, I flipped over the ornaments and repeated the process on the backside, so all of the sand was covered in glitter.