by Diana Bulls
December is here, the air is frosty and Christmas is just around the corner. What a great time to gather the kids (or the grandkids) in the kitchen for some family crafting. Here are some fairly simple ideas for a variety of tree ornaments straight from your pantry and the grocery store.
Apple Stars: Slice an apple horizontally, so the seeds form a star in the center of the apple. The slices should be thin, about 1/4 inch. Place the apple slices on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper and “dry” in the oven at 150ºF for about 10 hours. You can also use a food dehydrator if you have one. Use a needle to thread a piece of yarn or ribbon through the top as a hanger.
Citrus “Windows”: Slice oranges, lemons, limes or grapefruit into thin slices and dry like the apples and thread with yarn or ribbon. As the citrus dries, they become almost translucent and look like stained glass windows.
Cinnamon Ornaments: These are fun for kids and they smell wonderful. This recipe makes about 12 ornaments.
3/4 cup applesauce
2 bottles (2.37 oz. each) ground cinnamon
Preheat oven to 200°F. Mix applesauce and cinnamon in small bowl until a smooth ball of dough is formed – you may need to get your hands dirty in order to mix in all the cinnamon. Roll out about a quarter of the dough at a time, between two pieces of plastic wrap, to a 1/3 of an inch. Peel off top sheet of plastic wrap and cut dough into shapes with the cookie cutters. Use the straw to make a hole at the top of the ornament and place on a cookie sheet. Bake 2 1/2 hours and then cool ornaments on wire rack. (NOTE: you can also dry ornaments at room temperature. Place on a wire rack and let stand 1 to 2 days or until thoroughly dry, turning occasionally.) Once the ornaments are dry, insert ribbon through holes and tie to hang.
Popcorn-Cranberry Garlands: Another easy-to-do project to share with the kids. You will need the following:
1 cup popped popcorn per 3 to 4 feet of thread. Make the popcorn the day before, it will be easier to string and won’t break into pieces. Air-popped popcorn is less greasy than oil-popped corn.
Fresh cranberries: 3/4 C per 3-4 feet of garland (frozen cranberries are too soft and wet)
Dental floss and a needle with a large eye
Place the popcorn in one bowl and the cranberries in another for easy access. Thread the needle and make a large knot about 6 inches from the end of the floss. Begin stringing the popcorn and cranberries on the dental floss in any pattern you like. Knot the floss at the end.
Orange Pomanders: These also make really nice gifts. They will eventually dry as hard as a rock and will last for years. You need:
1 Medium-sized orange
Whole cloves (1-2 ounces per orange). Check out the health food store for bulk cloves, piercing tool, like a nail or an ice pick
Paper towel or napkins
You can insert the cloves in bands, circles, diamonds or whatever pattern you like. Use the piercing tool to make a hole first, and then insert the clove. You can also cover the entire orange with cloves. Be creative.
To hang, tie a ribbon around the pomander, with a loop at the top.
For a stronger aroma, cover the entire orange with cloves, and then roll in a mixture of spices:
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves
1 tbsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp allspice
¼ C powdered orrisroot
Leave the orange in the mix for a week, turning once a day.
Decorate a tree or some shrubs outside and let the kids keep track of the different birds that come for some tasty snacks.
Pinecone Bird Feeders
peanut butter (unsalted chunky peanut butter is best)
bird seed with sunflowers
bacon fat or melted suet (raw beef fat)
Mix the peanut butter, fat, cornmeal, and birdseed. Spread it thickly onto the pinecone “petals.” Tie a piece of red yarn to the top of the pinecone. Tie the pinecone to a tree branch.
Christmas Cookie Ornaments for the Birds
Christmas cookie cutters (such as stars and bells)
a drinking straw
6 pieces of bread
3 Tablespoons cornmeal
1 Tablespoon peanut butter
1 Tablespoon shortening
Cut bread into shapes with cookie cutters. Using a straw, make a hole near the top of each ornament. Slip red ribbons through the holes, and tie into a loop, for hangers. Leave bread out overnight to dry. Mix cornmeal, shortening, and peanut butter. Spread on bread, both sides. Decorate both sides with birdseed. Hang your ornaments onto tree branches!
Easy Garlands: yarn, cheerios or Fruit Loops
String the Cheerios or Fruit Loops. Tie the garland to your tree. You can also use stale popcorn and dried fruit pieces. Remember that some birds like to eat on the ground, so scatter some bird seed underneath the tree.