When the holiday season arrives, our normal pace of life begins to hustle along - and my focus starts to shift to making gifts (or shopping for them) and decorating our home for Christmas. It's the same with many of our friends - and one thing that I've found during the holidays that is often overlook - but can be vital to creating that holiday cheer - is how our home smells.
Are you like me? The right scent can make you smile and mentally drop you into a happy holiday mood, whether it's the sharp tangy scent of a pine tree, the bright citrus notes of oranges and cloves, or the mouth-watering warm tones of vanilla and cinnamon?
But I have a sensitive nose. Always have. So for me, the holiday season is very much intertwined with scent. So I've never really been a big fan of candles that use artificial perfumes. There's always something that feels just slightly off - and headache inducing - whenever I walk into a shop that's spritzing out perfumed "Christmas" scents.
For David and me, we prefer the real thing. Food cooking. Spices warming. Every time I smell cheddar cheese melting, I think of my Mom making her homemade mac-and-cheese (a post-Thanskgiving treat).
And when I smell pumpkin and nutmeg, I smile and get a little teary because it reminds me of my step-mom Judy, and how she made the most amazing pumpkin breads using old coffee cans as her baking pans. (I've tried to make her bread recipe since she's passed away, but it never comes out just right. She had a magic touch in the kitchen.)
Judy's the person who taught me how to use simmering spices to make your home smell ah-mazing for the holidays. Making up packages of simmering spice blends became a favorite go-to gift for female friends over the years (way better than a bottle of wine...though, I usually brought one of those along, too).
We have a small batch of my favorite blend available in the shop right now, packed up in some of David's grandmother's vintage pint-sized Ball and Mason jars - it's a fun hostess gift!
If you'd rather make your own, here's one recipe to try. I've kept this blend simmering on the stove all day during the week of Christmas, and it makes wrapping up gifts all that much more delicious. (So does the mulled wine, if I'm being totally honest.) I thought you might enjoy trying this recipe yourself at home!
IMPORTANT SAFETY TIPS:
I keep the simmering pot going while I'm home, and set an alarm on my phone to remind me to check if the pot needs more water. Once the scent weakens, I just make up a new batch.
DO NOT leave your simmering pot unattended. Meaning, if you leave the house, turn off the stove!
RECIPE: HOMEMADE SIMMERING SPICES
3-to-5 cinnamon sticks
1 dried lemon slice
2-to-3 dried orange slice
1/2 cup whole cloves
1/2 vanilla bean
1/4 cup dried ginger
1/4 cup whole allspice
Place the ingredients into a 2-quart saucepan and add water to at least the 3/4ths mark on the pan. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring occasionally. Do not cover your pot (or you won't really be able to smell the spices!
Once the mixture has come to a boil, reduce the heat to low. Keep the mixture simmering on your stovetop and add water as the water level reduces. FUN TIP: Store your simmering spice mixture (once cooled!) in the refrigerator, and use it over and over, until the scent has faded.