A decorative little knick-knack to hang from your Christmas tree. Some of them are family heirlooms dating back decades or more (my parents have one glass ornament that's over 100 years old -- it's hung very, very carefully in the upper branches of the tree) -- and some of them are less expensive. You can often get some fairly cheaply at many stores, and you can also make them yourself. But it doesn't matter if you paid a lot for your ornaments or a little, as long as they make your tree look good. 

When I was very young, I'd sit on the floor in front of the tree and imagine that the ornaments could talk to each other. The ancient glass orb would tell stories about Christmases Past to the laughing elf and the yarn angel, the various glass bells would gossip about all the new ornaments, and the electric lights would sing the Baby's First Christmas ornament to sleep every night (in my personal Christmas cosmology, all the lights could do was sing Christmas carols -- they knew a lot of 'em, so it didn't get monotonous). Once I fell asleep by the tree listening to Christmas ornament stories, and my dad snapped my picture, curled up in a chair, sound asleep, lit by the dim glow of the Christmas tree...

So, it's that time of year again. And everyone who loves to bake (can I mention yclept in here somewhere? You know that girl loves to cook) knows that you can only bake so many sweets before people start giving you the evil eye for putting temptation in their way when they're really trying to lose weight. Here is my solution: Bake-able Christmas ornaments. But ch'i-lin, you ask, what does this mean? Why, lovely scents filling the kitchen, but absolutely nothing to eat. Trust me, someone will thank you for it at some point.

I have included two recipes for baked Christmas ornaments. The first is a very popular recipe found on many websites and popular with crafty folk. The second is my own creation, though worked in the same vein as the first. Bear in mind, these ornaments are very versatile. They can be made for tree ornaments, tied to packages, or perhaps you could string some stretchy cord through the hole and make car air fresheners. Use any cookie cutter you want. They can be holiday themed; they could be in the shape of a pacifier for a baby shower; and I've seen these in the shape of a heart and strung with pretty ribbon as a wedding favor. These are easy and they smell great!

Spicy Applesauce Ornaments

What you need:
1 1/2 c. of any spices, such as cinnamon, ground cloves, nutmeg, allspice, and ginger
3/4 c. applesauce

In a medium bowl, combine your spices. Add the applesauce and stir to combine. Work the mixture with your hands or a mixer until the dough is smooth and the ingredients are thoroughly mixed. Roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut the dough with cookie cutters. Smaller ones, about the size of a half dollar, work best. Using a straw or pencil, make a small hole the size of a pea in the top of ornament. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 150 ° F for 1 hour. Remove from the cookie sheet and bake on the oven racks for another hour.

Coffee Applesauce Ornaments

What you need:
2 cups coffee grounds
1/2 cup cappuccino powder
3/4 cups applesauce

In a medium bowl, combine the coffee grounds and cappuccino powder. Add the applesauce and stir to combine. Work the mixture with your hands or a mixer until the dough is smooth and ingedients are thoroughly mixed. roll out the dough to 1/4 inch thickness. Cut the dough with cookie cutters. Smaller ones, about the size of a half dollar, work best. Using a straw or pencil, make a small hole the size of a pea in the top of the ornament. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet at 150 ° F for 1 hour. Remove from the cookie sheet and bake on the oven racks for another hour.

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