Although these whimsical birds look and smell like gingerbread cookies, their sparkling plumage hints at their true nature as sweet (though not edible) works of art.
Photography: Antonis Achilleos
Prepare dough: in a medium bowl, mix together 1 cup ground cinnamon and 1/4 cup applesauce using a rubber spatula.
Stir in 1/2 cup craft glue. Stir the dough until consistency is smooth and dry. Let stand 1 hour. Applesauce gives the dough pliability, glue makes it firm, and cinnamon imparts a lovely fragrance and a gingerbread color.
Turn out one-quarter of dough onto a cool, flat surface; flatten with your hands.
Flatten with a rolling pin to 1/4 inch thick. If dough becomes too dry, spritz with water. If it sticks to rolling pin or work surface, sprinkle with additional cinnamon.
Photocopy bird templates onto card stock (these are enlarged roughly 150 percent); cut them out, punching holes where indicated. Lay a template over dough; cut out shape with a utility knife (or use bird-shaped cookie cutters). Repeat with each of three remaining quarters of dough.
With a straw, poke a hole in dough as indicated on template (for hanging). Air-dry ornaments on a wire rack lined with paper towels for 24 hours, turning them over every 6 hours or so to keep them flat. Alternatively, preheat oven to 200 degrees. Transfer ornaments to a baking sheet; bake, flipping once, until dry, about 2 hours. Once the dough has dried completely, adorn the birds with markings inspired by nature or your imagination. As you decorate, proceed from the finest embellishment to the coarsest, adding glitter, then beads in order of size.
Using a bottle with an applicator tip, spread craft glue over the area you wish to decorate.
While glue is still wet, sprinkle with glitter or beads, holding ornament over a bowl as you work; tap off excess.
Wait for the first area to dry completely (at least 30 minutes) before repeating steps 7 and 8 on another section. Thread a length of ribbon through ornament's hole, trim the ends to prevent fraying, and knot. Once you take the ornaments off the tree, store them, wrapped individually in tissue paper, in a cool, dry place.
Two medium bowls
1 cup ground cinnamon
1/4 cup applesauce
Utility knife, or bird-shaped cookie cutters
Glitter and beads
Bottle with applicator tip
Length of thin ribbon for each ornament
Tissue paper, for storing
This sturdy flock -- including a cardinal and chickadee, among other birds -- will migrate each Christmas to decorate the tree.