There are plenty of good reasons these days to explore holiday decorations that are both “green” and cheap. Avid crafter Michael Aldrich, of Greenfield, MA said “green, home-made holiday decorations are a lot more special than anything you can find in a store. You get to recycle, use your creativity and you end up with something people will cherish.” Aldrich offered up his top 10 picks for decorations that are easy on the earth and your wallet.
1. Frozen holiday wreaths: “Most people have a Bundt or Jell-O-mold pan. If not, you can probably pick one up easily at a thrift store,” said Aldrich. Aldrich said all you have to do is put about an inch of water on the bottom of the pan and freeze it. Then, layer your choice of holly leaves, berries, bittersweet, small pine cones, etc. and pour more water over the mixture and freeze again. Once the layer of natural items is frozen, pour another inch of water on top and freeze again. Once everything is frozen, place the pan briefly in warm water and your wreath will pop right out. All you need to do now is tie a string around the top and hang outside. Keep in mind it needs to be 32 degrees or colder outside for the wreath to stay intact. “You can also add red or green food coloring to the water, but I like having the wreath clear. It looks more elegant, like crystal,” said Aldrich.
2. Frozen candle holders: If you are throwing a party, frozen candle holders are unique and beautiful. Again, they need to be used out-of-doors as you would an ice sculpture. Aldrich said all you need is two cans (preferably without ribs) one being smaller than the other. Place an inch of water on the bottom of the larger can and freeze. Then place the smaller can inside the larger one and fill the space in between the cans with natural materials such as pine, holly, tiny colorful stones etc. and fill to an inch below the top with water and freeze. Once everything is frozen, add one more inch of water and freeze again. Remove as you would the holiday wreath in a sink or pan of warm water. “All you need to do now is place a votive candle on top,” said Aldrich.
3. Frozen wine bottle holders: Follow instructions for frozen candle holders, except don’t pour the last inch of water on top. Aldrich said you just need to use an outer can large enough to accommodate the size of a wine bottle. If used indoors, place on a surface that won’t be damaged by the ice melting.
4. Dried apple, orange, or lemon slices for garlands: Aldrich explained that the technique to drying slices of fruit for garlands and maintaining the color is to “heavily brine the slices of fruit – about one pound of salt per quart of water for about an hour.” The slices of fruit are then layered on paper towels and “dusted’ with more salt, which can be brushed off later. The additional salt helps dry the fruit more quickly and furthers the preservation process.
5. Lemon peel ornaments: Using a paring knife, peel a lemon peel in a circular downward motion to create a spiral. Aldrich said to then preserve the peel as you would the dried fruit. Once the peels are dry, pierce one end with a needle and colored thread to create an ornament.
6. Handmade wreaths: “All you need to buy is a form and spool wire. Gather your greens and wrap them onto the form with the wire,” said Aldrich. “And for those who are wreath-challenged, you can simply tie greens together with stems of white birch, or holly and hang them as a swag,” he said.
7. Paper cut outs: “Cutting out angels, snowflakes, or circles you can turn into garlands from whatever paper you have around the house is a great to do with kids,” said Aldrich. “You can even use old magazines or simply color whatever your cutouts are any way you want,” he added.
8. “Santa” apples heads: You can either simply carve faces into the apples, or hollow them out like a jack-o-lantern. “You can use seeds for the eyes,” said Aldrich. Preserve the apples with the above brine recipe. Aldrich said you can use the hollowed apples with tea lights in them or you can turn a non-hollowed apple that has been carved and preserved into a doll by adding sticks and doll clothes. You can also use the non-hollowed carved apples as a tree ornament.
9. Recycled clothing for ornaments or stockings for stuffing: With minimal sewing skills and a little glue you can create stockings from old flannel shirts, jeans, etc. “Use the buttons and whatever else you want to attach to the stocking for designs or someone’s name for example,” said Aldrich. He also suggested creating ornaments by cutting out shapes of fabric, gluing them to cardboard and decorating them to create an ornament. “You could even glue someone’s picture onto the ornament,” he said. Aldrich also suggested using the pocket from jeans or a flannel shirt attached to the stocking or a larger fabric ornament to place another little gift.
10. Decorative fat balls for outdoor trees: Soften vegetable shortening or suet and mush in seeds and berries (do not use holly berries as they are poisonous). Form into a ball and tie twine or a ribbon around the ball and place in the refrigerator to harden. “The suet balls are a great gift for bird lovers too. Just make sure it’s kept cool and opened quickly,” Aldrich said.