Last week marked the official start of the holiday season in these quarters. Down came our box of Christmas decorations, in came the tree from last year and it was ready, set, go. At this time of year, I love to wander the high street in search of decorating ideas. Stores are filled with extra special "aah" factor and the twinklys and sparklys are ramped up...as are prices. Unfortunately.
I work my way around the wanties by allowing myself the barest minimum at full price and swooping in on all the things in the boxing day sales. This usually works for me. But this year I happened upon something I really, really wanted but simply could not justify buying. So I had a good look at it and decided to make my own!
Early the next morning, S and I set off on a walk. I had one destination in mind - the pine forest.
The pine cones we came home with weren't pretty nor were they as large as the ones I fancied but they're all we could find.
In addition to which we bought 2 oranges and a handful of cinnamon sticks on our way home.
To make my own winter potpourri, I turned the oven very low (about 70 centigrade) then sliced the oranges between an ⅛ and a ¼ of an inch thick;
the thinner the slice, the wavier it gets as it dries out. Once I had as many slices as I could fit on my oven shelf (not oven tray, you want the air to circulate properly and this way is much faster!) I spaced them out on the shelf.
Next I thoroughly washed the pine cones in a bleach + water solution because I really dislike creepy crawlies and the thought of dog poo, cowpat & other wild animal droppings or anything else I may have inadvertently brought into my home! Then I dug out an old, disused oven tray and arranged the pine cones on this and placed on a lower shelf in the oven.
I kept an eye on things - though honestly, at such low temperatures, nothing was happening in a hurry - and what'd'ya know? After about 90 minutes the orange slices were dehydrated and felt stiff to the touch AND those tiny pine cones had perked right up!
The next step was the really fun bit. Remember the thing I really, really wanted (above)? Well I didn't get that; instead I walked away with this
Now, I'm not one for Christmas scents but this one is divine! "Winter" consists of cloves, cinnamon and oranges which I'm guessing makes it fresher than the typical "mulled wine and winter spices" scents. Two drops per cone is all it took (I left my baked orange slices and cinnamon sticks naturally scented) and piled the lot into clear glass vases.
I experimented with a ruby red grapefruit (it works!) and will look into baking lemon and lime slices for added colour. And when the scent starts to fade all I need do is add a few drops to liven things up again. If this goes according to plan I'll give these as hostess gifts this holiday season!
This could easily become a winter tradition in our home. Hmmm, I can't help but wonder about other people's winter traditions...