Want to express your creativity and save money at the same time? Try these alternatives to traditional tree ornaments:
* Next time you make a batch of sugar cookies, set aside a few to use as ornaments. Punch a hole towards the top of the cookie before baking. Paint on designs using food coloring mixed with an egg yolk and a half teaspoon of water. After the cookies have had a chance to cool down, lace a red or green ribbon through the hole. (If you have small children or pets, maybe you shouldn't try this!).
* After you've made your cookies, why not use the cookie cutters to adorn your tree?
* If you have heart-, bell- or star-shaped cookie cutters you can use them as frames for family photos. Look through your box of pictures and place the cutter over the images, searching for one that works well in the shape. Once you've found a good fit, trace around the cutter with a pen, cut out the shape and apply the photo to the cutter with glue. Glue a loop of ribbon to the back of the photo. You can use old curtain rings the same way.
* European, hand-painted ornaments seem to be all the rage this year. Why not decorate some of your own? Re-use orbs you already own and buy some acrylic paint and a fine paint brush from a crafts shop. Copy flower motifs from art books, write your children's names, or apply favorite saying to your globes.
* Some people would say I go overboard on recycling — I actually make tree ornaments from bottle caps! Using a hammer I partially flatten the cap. I then pound a hole towards the top and another towards the bottom of the cap with a nail. In the center of the cap I glue old coins, stamps, or costume jewelry. I hang single earrings, old religious medals, beads or bits of colorful thread from the bottom hole and use the top hole for an ornament hook.
* Try using clothespins in a new way. Spray paint a handful of them in red, green or gold. Glue an embellished family photo, a recycled greeting card, a cut-out heart or star shape or a calligraphed message onto one of the ends. Clamp on to the branches of your tree.
* Collect any small gift boxes you have. Wrap the empty boxes with leftover bits of wrapping paper and tie ribbon around each one. Dangle your "gifts" from the tree.
* Use your old ornaments in new ways. Fill a glass bowl with a collection of metallic orbs and drape a length of ribbon amongst the balls. If you have a hutch or etagere that displays your wine glasses, why not fill a few glasses with small, colorful ornaments? Hang several ornaments from your chandelier or window frame. Line your mantel with evergreens and nestle orbs amongst the greenery.
* OK, I admit that sometimes I break down and actually buy an ornament or two, but I always make sure I can use them after the holidays. Ornaments I use throughout the year include a glass moon that catches the light in my office window; a small watering can I placed next to a pot on my deck, a hummingbird dangled from a tree that has lost all its leaves; a green dinosaur sitting on top of a picture frame and a small straw hat hanging from the door handle of my armoire. I have a birdhouse collection out in a tree in my front yard and have added birdhouse ornaments to it over the years.
Several years ago I found a dog ornament that was the spitting image of my puppy. After the holidays I cut off the hook and sat it next to my favorite picture of the world's greatest dog.