cookie dough

This is Nantucket’ Stroll Weekend, an event that has morphed into one of the island’s big attractions. We go all out to take advantage of the fantastic backdrop of our island, not easily duplicated anywhere in the country, to put on a great show. When dusk falls on Friday evening and the trees are lit on Main Street I keep waiting for someone to shout, “Lights, Camera, Action!”

This event started as a community affair for the locals. But like all good things that are Nantucket, it was hard to keep it that way. And so here we are many years later, attracting visitors from near and far to join us in celebrating the season. In this spirit it might be wise to put away that “Bah Humbug Spirit” islanders sometimes adapt for events that involve the invasion of the “body snatchers” and get with it. Pick and choose your activities – there’s so much happening. There will be plenty of island, kick-back time after the weekend.
I start the season by getting my tree up early. I polled a handful of friends to see when they put up their trees. It seems equally divided between those who decorate right after Thanksgiving, those who do wait for the night before Christmas. I like to enjoy it as long as possible. A lit live tree transforms a home and I like this attitude adjustment.

Decorating a tree is a personal matter. If you’re newly married, or just setting up your first home you probably haven’t collected a box full of wonderfully meaningful ornaments. Don’t despair. There is nothing quite so beautiful as a tree covered with hundreds of tiny clear lights. This is the perfect solution for those with a bent toward minimalism.

Gingerbread men and stars are easy to make in multiples to cover a tree.
Gingerbread copy    
However, if your childhood memories revolve around holidays that included a tree laden with ornaments, some handmade, some store bought, this clean approach probably won’t do. One of the cheapest, easiest and creative ways to fill a tree is with Christmas “cookies”. Here’s how to make a batch of ornaments. Kids will love making these too:

  1. Pre-heat oven to 300 degrees.
  2. Combine and mix together: 4 cups all purpose flour, 1-1/2 cups water and 1 cup of salt.
  3. Knead for 10 minutes.
  4. Roll out the dough on a floured surface.
  5. Cut into different shapes using stars, trees, Santas, Gingerbread men with cookie cutters. Make a hole in the top of each for hanging.
  6. Let cool and then paint with poster or tube paint.
  7. Dry and spray with clear acrylic on both sides.
  8. Thread hole with ribbon or yarn for hanging.

Tie bunches of cinnamon sticks here and there on the branches as well. This will give the room a holiday scent. Choose a color scheme for your ribbons and tie each ornament to the branches of the tree. Wherever the tree looks bare, tie ribbon bows. Or, for a country cottage look, cut strips of calico to use for tying the ornaments and for making bows. You can make the tree as sophisticated (gold and silver ribbons) or as colorful (lots of different prints) or as country (red and white plaids) as you want.

Wrap the base of the tree with fabric, cotton quilt batting to look like a blanket of snow, a pretty quilt or silver foil (works in a pinch). My theme is usually gold and silver balls with clear lights so, at this moment I’m planning to wrap the base of my tree with gold Mylar, unless the batting looks better. I have a red and white patchwork quilt I might use as a tree skirt. A soft flannel baby blanket is a nice alternative.

To make a tree skirt to go with the “cookie” ornament theme, use a plain piece of white fabric like an old sheet. When painting the ornaments, before the paint dries use each one as a stamp and press onto the sheet fabric. You can do this with each cutout, placing the images at random over the fabric. You might have to add a little more paint to each ornament after doing this, or leave as is for a “faded” look.

In the coming weeks I’ll have more DIY ideas for decorations and gifts that are fun, easy and inexpensive to make.