A cup of hot chocolate, a lively fire warming your spirits, and a twinkling tannenbaum — ah, memories of Christmases past! If you want to recapture the simplicity of bygone holidays, give your tree a homey, natural look and create your own easy-to-make, handmade tree ornaments.
* Gather mini-bundles of herbs such as rosemary, sage or oregano from your garden. You can add a dried rose or a few toyon or pyracantha berries for color, if you'd like. Wrap a length of raffia around the stems, and hang the bundles from your tree.
* I love the natural look of golden leaves, walnuts and pinecones dangling from my tree — and they're so simple to make! Gather your pressed and dried leaves, cones and nuts and set up a spraying station outside. It's easy to attach a bit of thread to the leaves and cones after they're sprayed, but how do you hang the nuts? Before spraying, attach a loop of thread to the top of the walnut with a glob of glue from a glue gun. Then, place everything on newspaper and spray with gold paint.
* Do you have a lemon tree in your yard? Why not harvest a few to use as ornaments? Make sure you leave a bit of stem attached to the fruit when collecting them so that you can tie a ribbon around it and hang it from your tree. Try drying lemon or orange slices and intermingling them with the whole fruits.
* Moss-covered globes are fun to make and add an Old World feel to your tree. Purchase a few small Styrofoam globes from your local hobby shop, along with a bag of moss (usually used to place around the base of potted plants or to line hanging planters). First poke a push pin through a loop of ribbon or gold thread and attach to the ball with a glue gun. Then, using a spatula, cover half the globe with Tacky Glue and apply a thick layer of moss. When it dries repeat on the other side.
* Cinnamon-stick bundles are a cinch. Group three or four sticks and tie together with green and red ribbon.
* I often run into boxes of old sepia-toned photos and postcards at the flea market that I recycle in a variety of ways. To make simple ornaments, I punch a hole in the top of a card or photo, loop through a bit of gold ribbon and hang it from my tree. I dress up some of the images with a twig "frame." I glue the postcard to a larger piece of colorful paper and then cut and glue twigs around the image. You can "frame" all kinds of things — an old postage stamp, a small picture you've drawn, or a no-longer-worn brooch.
* My Christmas tree often includes treasures gathered on walks: feathers, shells, bits of coral, twigs with moss, rocks with holes in them, bird's nests and colorful autumn leaves.
* Tiny, cone-shaped tussie-mussies, popular during the Victorian era, are selling for $10 to $20 each this year. Make your own out of foil wrapping paper or from recycled grocery bags, and fill the cone with moss, small pinecones or dried flowers. Or, buy diminutive, ready-made wicker baskets from a craft store and fill and adorn as you please.
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