Loving Lavender

The other night DH and I were watching an episode of Downton Abbey. One of the  characters, (Daisy), was busy in the kitchen stripping the dried flowers from lavender stems. She mentioned that the flowers were going to be made into sachets which would then be used to scent clothing and linen cupboards. Lavender scent famously repels moths as well.

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It was a long, cold winter and I worried that my English lavender plants would be killed off. Happily all three survived, are in full bloom, fragrant and abuzz with wild bees.

Feeling confident about their ability to thrive in our less than optimal growing conditions I thought I’d try an experiment to see if I could propogate lavender from stem cuttings. I found abundant  information on the internet  with directions to do this.

The first step was to take a few woody stem cuttings using a very sharp knife:

After stripping the leaves from the bottom 5 cm and removing the flower from the top end I dipped the bottom end into root stimulator; natural unpasteurized honey.

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I had prepared a clay pot ahead of time by soaking it overnight in water. When I was ready to take the cuttings I filled the pot with potting soil.fullsizeoutput_68

The prepared cuttings were then inserted into the soil, evenly spaced around the edges of the pot.

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Finally, I enclosed the entire pot in a clear plastic bag and placed the pot in a bright window.

 

Only time will tell whether my experiment is successful.

Love It…or Leave It

Fruit cake, also known as Christmas cake, or Sugar Plum Cake, is one of the traditions I grew up with and have held on to. I love Christmas cake. Hubby doesn’t, so most of the Christmas cake I bake each year is given away to those friends and family who enjoy it as well.

My mother’s recipe followed her to the grave, so I was on my own, looking for the perfect concoction. The first recipe I tried included sweetened condensed milk and corn flake crumbs, and refrigeration. Disaster. A few years and experiments later, I stumbled upon a recipe for “Sugar Plum Cake”. It is, for me, the perfect combination of candied and dried fruits, nuts, spices and alcohol.

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Every year since finding this recipe, I mix up a batch or two about 8 weeks before Christmas. Like fine wine, or cheese, it improves with age.

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So, what about you? Are you a lover, or a leaver?

 

A Spicy Alternative

Yesterday, I wrote about, and praised, the invention of “Scentsicles” to replace the missing fragrance of evergreens in my home. Today, I am making a natural alternative that dates back centuries: pomanders. Wikipedia refers to pomanders as “an early form of aromatherapy”. In addition to their yummy, spicy fragrance, they look rather pretty when  arranged in a bowl on the sideboard, or kitchen counter.

This is an easy craft that can be done with kids or grandkids, with a little supervision. The materials needed are oranges, ribbon, and cloves. A bamboo skewer, or similar item, (knitting needle, perhaps?), scissors, 2 straight pins and paper towels are the only tools used. I like to buy my oranges a few weeks ahead of time and leave them out on the kitchen counter to dry out a bit, warning my hubby not to eat them. That warning doesn’t always work, though.

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Beware: your fingers will get sticky !

The first step is to cut two lengths of ribbon – enough to wrap around the orange, like wrapping a gift.  Allow enough ribbon  to tie a bow and form a hanging loop if desired. Secure the ribbon to the orange with the pins.

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Next, using the skewer,  begin poking holes to break the orange rind. Following the edge of the ribbon, space them about 1/2 cm (1/4″) apart. Push a clove into each hole.

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Working methodically around the orange, repeat until each section between the ribbons is filled with cloves.

 

Finally, tie the ends of the ribbon into a bow. Tie a hanging loop at this point, or, like me, trim the ends.  Remove the pins.

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After arranging in a bowl, keep an eye on the pomanders, turning them frequently as they dry out. Believe it or not, they will last quite a few months, age gracefully and remain quite fragrant.