Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Handmade Christmas Decorations

By Brandi M. Seals

The first Christmas my husband and I celebrated together was interesting. He was finishing his Master's in Education and I had a Bachelor of Arts but could not find a good job. I was working part time in a store until I could find something better. That meant there was not a whole lot of money to go around.

I think our entire apartment would have been empty, except that my parents gave us their old Christmas tree when they got a new one. I thought it would be great. We could decorate it up and have a real celebration together. That fantasy lasted just about as long as it took me to put up the tree. That is when I realized I did not have much to put on it.

I had exactly 3 strands of lights - on with green lights, one with white, and one mixed color strand. I reasoned we did not need many lights on the tree and continued to decorate. I got out my box of ornaments I had collected over the years. It was a shoe box full. I guess I never thought about how the ornaments would look on the tree. If I had, I might have realized that a 7 foot tall Christmas tree would not look put together with 3 strands of lights and a handful of ornaments.

I could not stand for our tree to look so bare, and I could not afford to buy more. So I began employing every single trick I could think of. I strung together cranberries and popcorn to create garland. A tip for anyone thinking of doing this, do not use microwave popcorn that has salt or butter on it. You will make a mess and if you have pets, they will be drawn to it.

The handmade garland helped some, but there was still plenty left to do. I did not have a tree skirt, so I grabbed a cute blanket and wrapped it around the base. Add in the gifts and suddenly the tree began to shape up.

Anyone can employ these techniques to create a gorgeous, low-cost Christmas tree. If you need more decorations, do not worry. I have a few more tricks left up my sleeve.

Make decorations. Use what you have lying around the house to decorate the tree. If you have kids, this should be easy. Pick out some small figurines or toys that you can string up and hang on the tree. If you do not have any string lying around, dental floss is a good alternative. It can get a bit sticky, so if your floss is flavored, you may want to wash it with hot water first. Let the floss dry and then use it to hang up decorations.

Bake up decorations. If you have the supplies to make cookies, you can bake up decorations. Check to make sure you have flour, salt, oil, and water to make flour dough decorations.

To make them, mix together 2 cups of flour, 1 cup of salt and 2 tablespoons of oil. Add in 3/4 cup of water and mix well. If the dough is too thick, add a tablespoon of water at a time until the desired consistency is achieved.

Roll the dough out and use cookie cutters to cut out the shapes you want. If you do not have cookie cutters, use a sharp knife to cut the dough. Alternatively, you could mold the dough like play dough into any shapes that you want. Just be sure to poke a hole for the string to go through before you bake up your creation.

Bake the dough in a 250 degree oven for about an hour. Baking time will differ depending on the thickness of the dough used. After the dough has cooled, you can decorate the creations with paint or royal icing. Just be sure not to eat the decorations. They will not be tasty.

String up the ornaments and hang them around the tree. If you are still coming up a little short, keep in mind that you do not have to decorate all the sides of the tree. Put along a wall and leave the back bare.

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