Here is a fun way to “fancify” neighbor gifts such as baked goods: a divine- smelling gift tag that will last all season (and longer) as a beautiful and fragrant tree ornament.

Let’s make a few, shall we?

For the ornaments, you will need:

Small mixing bowl or Ziplock bag
Several sheets of wax paper
Rolling pin
Drinking Straw
Thin spatula or turner
Any other embellishments

Note: This recipe only uses cinnamon and applesauce (no glue) so it is very safe if you want to do it with kids.

Start with equal parts of applesauce and cinnamon, 1 cup each.  Then, if you like other spices, take your pick of nutmeg, ground cloves, allspice, and/ or ginger, and add about a teaspoon each.  The amount is flexible, as you can always add a bit more applesauce if it gets too dry, or more cinnamon if it ends up too runny.
Now knead the whole thing in a bowl with your hands, and you will end up with a dough that is a little sticky, but holds together in a ball. Tip: For a less messy version that works great for kids, skip the bowl and put everything in a ziplock bag, seal it shut, then knead.

Put the ball of dough on a sheet of wax paper and put another sheet on top, and use a rolling pin to roll the dough out to between 1/8″- 1/4″ thick (any thicker and it will take a really long time to dry, and not look as good; any thinner, and it will break more easily).

Cut out various shapes using cookie cutters, and use a thin spatula or turner to carefully lift the shapes from the wax paper, onto a new sheet of wax paper for drying.  Take the remaining dough and knead it into a ball again and place on new wax paper (don’t try to reuse wax paper because it just gets soggy and will rip), repeating the whole process until all the dough is used up.

Then use a plastic drinking straw or a toothpick (depending on the sizes you made) to make holes in each shape so that a ribbon can be strung through them.

Allow to dry at least 24 hours (or 48 hours if they were 1/4″ or thicker), turning the shapes over a few times.  After the shapes have hardened a bit, you can transfer them to a cooling rack and they will finish drying faster.  My shapes were small to medium size and about 1/4″ thick and I got 23 of them.  If you don’t need quite that many, cut the recipe in half.

Ok, now that your shapes are dry, let’s turn them into the ornamental gift tags!  Some people like to paint the shapes with acrylic paint, but they look lovely just as they are.  I tend to favor fairly simple designs.  I added ribbon, bows, and a few rhinestones to dress them up.  You could add buttons, beads, glitter, anything really.

Make your own tags or print some free tags (see this roundup I did last year of free printable gift tags) available all over the internet.  Add the tags and admire!  They are ready to serve dual duty as gift tags and ornaments!

I think they look so pretty on the Christmas tree, although my husband pointed out that the uniformity and paper tags made it look like a mall tree.  Not that I was considering keeping them all for myself or anything…  These will go out in batches with bread and assorted Christmas cookies over the next couple of weeks, but until then, I may as well enjoy the wonderful smell and colors on my tree, no?

P.S.- What is your favorite kind of treat to receive from friends and neighbors during the holidays?  I have a few ideas but I’d love your input!