Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Rustic Christmas Tree -- inexpensive too!

I used my discretionary money that had been accumulating and bought my first artificial Christmas tree -- prelit! I love it! We put it up after Thanksgiving and decorated it the next day.

The only thing I needed to buy was the raffia for the garland. (It cost $1.58 at WalMart.) The red twigs came from our dogwood bushes. I trimmed them a couple weeks ago and saved the beautiful red branches.

The berry-looking sprigs are rose hips that I trimmed from a wild bush growing along a canal that I pass everyday when I walk my youngest to school. A few years ago I put fresh spruce cuttings, rose hips and some other berry-looking cuttings above my kitchen cabinets, along our mantle, and above the entertainment center. It was beautiful (and free!) but dried out and was a real pain to clean up. The rose hips, however, are pretty mess free. Ditto the dogwood.

About the cookies . . . Way back when I was in college and dated Dave Fenton, I saw his mother's tree hung with gingerbread cookies with white piping. I loved it! And got the recipe. I didn't marry Dave, but I've been using his mom's Swedish Rolled Ginger Cookie recipe to decorate our Christmas trees since 1995 (maybe even a couple years more). Here it is:

Swedish Rolled Ginger Cookies

1 c. shortening
1 c. granulated sugar
1 c. molasses
1 egg
2 Tbsp. vinegar
3 3/4 c. flour
2 - 3 tsp. ground ginger
1 1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. salt

Cream shortening and sugar. Beat in molasses, egg, and vinegar. Stir in flour w/ ginger, soda, cinnamon, clobes and salt; Mix well. Chill 3 hours.

Generously flour surface and roll dough to 1/8 inch thickness. Cut into shapes. Place 1" apart on greased cookie sheet. Bake at 375 for 8 min. (5 to 6 min. if you're not planning to hang them). If hanging, make hole in each cookie before removing from baking sheet. (I use a pair of clean needle-nose pliers.) Let cookies cool completely on wire rack.

For icing: I only use milk and powdered sugar. (This year I added vanilla so that my icing would be off-white to match the raffia.) It needs to be fairly thick so that it won't run when you work with it. Put a large spoonful into a ziplock sandwich bag. Cut a tiny corner off the bottom of bag and use as a pastry bag. Let your kids help! This year I mandated a lot of outlined cookies, but most years we go wild with icing and have a variety of designs on the tree.

This is what my tree will look like by the time Christmas rolls around. You see, part of our tradition is to let the kids eat the cookies off the tree up until Christmas -- one a day. Then on Christmas Eve we take the remaining cookies off and either eat them or leave them for Santa.

Note: I knew we'd miss the smell of pine after years of having real Christmas trees. So I've been looking for a plug-in pine scent to use with our new tree. (Safety Man insists that candles are too dangerous. Even candle warmers don't make the cut for him.) I found the perfect scent at Bath and Body Works. It's heavenly! (If you look closely at the top photo of the tree, you'll see the scentport plugged in at the bottom right.)


Science Teacher Mommy said...

Gorgeous tree. And I really love your tradition.

I still think my deal takes the cake: several years ago in Houston, we were leaving town for Christmas and I couldn't justify the expense of a tree. I was rather depressed about it because I think Jedi was about 2 and the season was just starting to get really fun.

Anyway, I was driving through a really nice neighborhood near the temple and saw a garage sale. I never stopped at sales in that neck of the woods because their junk wasn't much better than the junk regular folks accumulated, but it was always WAY overpriced. On a whim, I stopped and glanced around. I saw a huge Christmas tree in pieces in a box. I asked about it and the owner replied, "Seven feet tall, fully strung with working lights."

I couldn't believe my luck, as I asked the price I told myself I'd be willing to pay up to $20 for the thing. "Um . . ." she thought, "I've been out here all day; if you'll take the thing off my hands then I will give it to you for $5."


We still have that tree; it is great. Though this year, being in the land of cheap and plentiful Christmas trees, we may go out and cut our own. We'll see.

Allie's Antics said...

What a cute tree! I liked your idea for the cookies. I may copy. It's good to be back and reading your great posts!

Flashlight Girl said...

Great tree and tradition. I've been wracking my brain for an advent calendar that everyone can enjoy each day -- not take turns. I think the cookie tree is a winner! I have a "family tree" in my kitchen that I love. It's only 5 ft tall, skinny, and a bit spindly, but I have decorated it with pictures of my families. Grandparents (mine and Todd's), parents, siblings and their children, etc. I love it. It helps me remember why I love Christmas and what is really important. I think I'll put the cookies on that one! Love Ya!

Suko said...

The Swedish ginger cookies sound divine.
Your tree looks lovely!
We'll get our tree this Saturday. : )

Horsley News said...

way cute Christmas Tree! Thanks for your cheerfulness and friendship.


Me again said...

The very first year hubby and I were married, we bought an artificial christmas tree. We were looking for ways to save money, and this seemed to fall into that category.

7 christmases later, and we are still very pleased with our purchase.

It cost around $65. It paid for itself by the 2nd Christmas.

Totally worth it.

Heidi A. said...

We are using our three-tiered trees this year; one for each child to decorate. We had to keep it simple this year and had donated our boxed 'fake' tree to the festival of trees this summer (no place to store it).

Yesterday, Ashley went out back and cut down one of Grandpa's pine trees (that's what he planted them for -- as he was going to have a Christmas Tree farm one day) and brought it in. It was a bit pokey -- but, we decorated it for them as they didn't want the hassle of putting up their large boxed tree. :) I guess there are stages in life.

They're happy, the house smells good, and Grandpa is pleased to have grown his own small tree.