This is a challenging but rewarding winter decoration craft for a cracker lighthouse with real electrical light and covered with a mason jar for protection!
When I was a kid, we used to make gingerbread/ginger cookies (the Scandinavian version) every Christmas. My brother and I would get out the cookie cutters and cut the dough into all sorts of fun shapes. When we were a little older, we discovered that there was something called gingerbread houses and immediately wanted to try making one. The gingerbread was too valuable, however, to waste by letting it collect dust and flies. We had to protect it in some way so it could be eaten when we did not want to look at it anymore. Through the years, we have tried different methods of covering the lighthouses, including cling wrap and jars.
Now, I have grown tired of making gingerbread. This year, I wanted to make a gingerbread house without getting out the baking bowl and cookie cutters. I decided I wanted to make a lighthouse, as that would fit perfectly in a jar. At first, I considered using cookies, but they were too good to hide away in a jar like this. I finally decided on some savory crackers and peanut butter. Another good combination would be sweet crackers and chocolate spread.
I also wanted to have light in my lighthouse. I was thinking of using a candle when my mom reminded me that the candle would not get any air inside the jar. Idea trashed. I then decided on electrical light. I got my brother, who is very good with technology and inventing things, to make the lighting for me (thanks a lot, David).
So in the end, you could say that this project is a sister-brother project -- a cooperation between the cook and the inventor!
Step 1: You Will Need . . .
For the Lighthouse:
1 wide-mouthed mason jar with ring (not the ordinary lid)
about 18 round crackers or biscuits
peanut butter, chocolate spread, or something similar that will not go bad at room temperature (since frosting has butter, it will not work, but you could make a glaze with powdered sugar and a few drops of water)
something for snow or sand; I used desiccated coconut for snow, or you could use corn flour for sand
1 toilet paper roll
1 small piece of stiff paper
scissors, knife, tape
For the Lighting:
1 white or yellow LED
2 very thin isolated wires (I wanted the wires to be as invisible as possible, so I chose some that were as thin as hair, but they broke easily. Perhaps I should have chosen some a little thicker, as it is difficult to get the lighthouse into the jar, and you don't want to discover that the wires are broken when you first get it in there.)
1 battery and battery holder (The battery just needs to be powerful enough for the LED to shine. I used a 3V coin cell.)
1 pair of wires with an on-off switch
soldering iron and solder
Step 2: Make the Lighthouse
Get out the crackers, peanut butter (or other "glue"), and knife. Start "gluing" the crackers together on top of each other to make the body of the lighthouse. Save one cracker for later.
Step 3: Make the Lighting (optional)
Solder the two thin wires onto each of the legs of the LED.
Solder one of the wires for the switch onto the battery and the other to one of the wires for the LED.
Solder the other wire for the LED onto the switch.
Remember the polarity of the LED.
Picture 1: Soldering the LED and thin wires.
Picture 2: The switch and wires.
Picture 3: LED and switch attached to the battery.
Picture 4: Finished!
Step 4: Assembling the Lighthouse
To make the holder for the LED, cut a 3/4 in. wide ring off the toilet paper roll. Cut a circle the same size as the ring from the stiff paper. Tape the paper circle to one end of the ring. Break the toothpicks in half and tape them to the inside of the ring all the way around. Try to make sure that all the toothpicks stick out the same length so the roof will be stable. Secure the LED inside the ring on the stiff paper with some play doh or wax.
Lift out the lid "plate" of the lid "ring" for the jar and stick the switch and battery through the ring. Place the lid plate back in the ring. Roll up the remaining wire inside the lid. (Refer to the pictures for more help.)
Secure the cracker lighthouse on the lid inside the wire ring. Since I wanted the lighthouse a bit taller, I made a toilet-paper-roll-and-stiff-paper cup similar to the one holding the LED and taped it upside-down to the lid. Then, I glued the lighthouse on top with peanut butter.
Place the LED holder on top of the light house and place the remaining cracker on top. I used another toothpick to prick holes for the broken toothpicks in the "roof" cracker. I then added some peanut butter on top of the holes and placed the roof on the lighthouse, sticking the toothpicks into the holes in the roof. For decoration, I glued a ginger nut on top of the roof.
Make sure all the parts of the lighthouse a securely glued together with peanut butter, as we are going to have to have to hold the lighthouse horizontally to get it into the jar.
Fill some coconut in the jar and lay the jar on the side. Holding the lighthouse horizontally, insert it into the jar (I used a knife to support the lighthouse), screw on the lid, and set the lighthouse up so the snow falls to the bottom.
Test to see that the light works!
Step 5: Some Final Thoughts
This was a complicated and nerve-wracking project, as the lighthouse and wires easily broke when inserted into the jar. I would call this an "adult craft" or a "grown-up version of the gingerbread house."
Looking back, however, I see that this could easily be made into a kids project. If you omitted the lighting and the snow, this cracker lighthouse would be very easy to make. You could still make the cardboard top, or you could layer some licorice wheels between the cracker "body" and the cracker "roof" for the illusion of dark windows at the top of the lighthouse. Without the snow, the jar could just be lowered over the standing lighthouse, omitting the risk of breaking the lighthouse as it is inserted into the jar. Doing it this way, the project could be reduced to three simple steps: Building the cracker lighthouse, making the top, and covering with the jar.
This would be a great project to do for winter decorations either at home before school starts or in school one of the first days.
I'm looking forward to seeing what versions of this project you come up with! Please post pictures!