Monday, November 22, 2010

Herbal Holiday Decorating Occasional Series (4 of 5)

This is the fourth in a series of blogs introducing you to ways of using herbs in your holiday.  We started with Scented Dough back in October, moved to a set of holiday recipes and gift ideas, detailed how to use cranberries for cooking and decorating and now I have a selection of scented items you can create at home, both for decorating and as gifts.

Rosemary Walnuts
I had to start with something edible, because tastes are always linked to the holidays.  This recipe is a twist on sugared nuts, giving you a savory recipe instead.
1 pound shelled walnuts
2 Tbls. of olive oil
2 Tbls. butter, melted
3 Tbls. minced fresh rosemary leaves
2 tsp. paprika
½ to 1 tsp.  salt or a salt substitute
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Place all ingredients in a bowl and toss to mix.  Spread on a baking sheet large enough to hold the nuts in a single layer.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, stirring once or twice or until the nuts are golden but not browned and the scent of rosemary fills the room.  Remove and cool.  May be eaten when warm or stored in an airtight container for up to 2 weeks.  Makes 2 cups.

Last night I found The Night the Grinch Stole Christmas on television, my husband, bless him, did not say a word about my watching it and sat silently on the couch as I recited all the lines over top of Boris Karloff and sang all the songs at the top of my lungs.  (The cats weren’t that generous!).  This movie is what I watch when I decorate my tree, it is a personal tradition started when I lived alone in Indianapolis after taking my first professional museum job back in… well never mind.  As soon as that show was on, I started thinking again about dragging out the decorations (I’d like to do it Friday, but Chas has other thoughts on this.  So instead, I decided I would make a few items to decorate with, as I make them I will put the up and it will be so gradual he won’t even notice!
Here is what I chose:
Scented Pine Cones
I will place a dozen or so in my trifle bowl and use it as a centerpiece.  They also look great stacked in a basket on the mantle.  From there you can even toss them into the fire for a crackle and scent.
      2 Tbls. orange peel
      1 1 /2 Tbls. orrris root
      1 Tbls. cinnamon pieces
      1 Tbls. Hibiscus flowers
      1 tsp. broken bay leaves
      10 drops cinnamon oil
      10 drops bergamot oil
      10 to 15 drops any other spice oils of your choice
      10 to 15 pine cones.
Mix together with pine cones in a zip lock bag shaking to cover.  Allow to meld as long as a week before using.

Herbal stars
Some woody herb branches have great scent, like sage, scented geraniums, and rosemary.  Strip the leaves off the stems trim them to length and bundle them together into a star shape with raffia or jute (4 sticks = 8 points).  You can also do this with cinnamon sticks.  I used scented geranium twigs for the pictures, but also made some with the rosemary I used to make the walnuts.

Hang Ornaments on Ribbon
I fill clear glass ornaments with pine needles, rosemary leaves, cinnamon chips and/or colorful herbs then hang them from ribbon in front of the window.  The window is large and faces the rising sun, so as the sun warms the bulb, it releases the scent.  It is marvelous to wake up to.  I saw once that someone put a wassail blend in ornaments this way. I am thinking about doing that this year, perhaps tonight!

Stove-top Simmers
Because of my husband’s aversion to evergreens, I try not to bring in too many, but I love the smell of pine.  As a substitute for that scent I will craft a spice mixture.  I find it a wonderful way to scent your home.  You can do it too.  Use commercial potpourri, or choose seasonal scents and make a simmer.  With a simmer you just set the herbs in a saucepan toward the back of the stove where the gentle heat will release the oils, or use an electric commercial potpourri pot or those with a candle underneath. 
To craft the simmer, combine herbs to equal about ½ cup dried herbs and add that to 2 cups water.
You can make your own blend with equal parts allspice, star anise, cinnamon sticks, gingerroot, whole cloves, and citrus peel.
You can add a few drops of essential oil to accent the aroma. This is where I get my pine scent from.  I use rosemary or pine oil in the simmer.   Keep an eye on the mixture to make sure all the water doesn’t simmer away or the herbs may burn (add more water as needed).

Orange Decorations
Yesterday I was in the grocery store and saw that the Clementines are in season.  These wonderful oranges are the ones used for making canned “Mandarin” oranges.
Oranges are a great holiday item and historic too.  Because of their scarcity they were always a special treat around the holidays and even used as part of gifts in the Victorian era.
 You can make a scented and colorful decoration using a few Clementines.  Just take Clementines and pierce them with wire adding several in a row to create a tower.  Then hang a bell or a bow at the end and hang it from your door knob.   It makes a unique decoration that welcomes guests with nice scent and unusual flair.
I hope you enjoy these scented additions to your holiday decorating and that you and your family have a Happy Thanksgiving!

As always you will find all our herbal products at !

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