Cheer Du Jour

A little cheer to forget your troubles, and better yet, to toast with a glass of bubbles!

Orange you glad I posted this?

The finished product…after a slight oops moment.

Today’s project actually started yesterday, with yet another learning moment. After seeing lovely pictures of dried, sliced oranges decking the halls, I decided this was a nice, simple project to do. And it was – mostly. I cut several small oranges into thin slices, placed them on cookie sheets and pierced each slice with two cloves. After baking for an hour at 225 degrees, aromas of spiced citrus encircled the house like a holiday wreath. So far, so good.

So far, so good!

However, the slices didn’t seem quite dry enough yet, so I put them back in the oven for another thirty minutes. I then put the oranges on a cooling rack to finish drying overnight. Having a particularly curious pair of cats (who love to chase any circular–read rolling–object up and down the stairs), I thought it best to protect my craft project du jour by returning the trays to the oven.

Now, the learning moment. Always be sure to check inside the oven before preheating for the next baking project. As the temperature soared to 425 degrees, the bottom tray became charred. I tossed them outside for the wildlife critters – not to eat, but to play a spirited game of hockey.

Oops!

At least the upper tray survived! Those orange discs smell divine, and make a festive addition to the tree and garland. To hang them, just poke a hole at the top and loop through ribbon, string, dental floss or whatever. So, despite the slight memory lapse, these were very easy to make and I would definitely recommend this project for family fun (except the slicing and baking steps, which should of course be performed by an adult–preferably one who remembers to check the oven first!).

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When life gives you gumdrops…

Now that Thanksgiving has left us over-stuffed, and Black Friday has left us over-shopped, it’s time to concentrate on THE holiday. We celebrate the winter solstice (more on that in future posts), but the series of posts I propose to follow, to highlight inexpensive, handmade decorations and gifts, can be used by followers of any of the season’s holidays. I have seen gumdrop trees adding their colorful presence to several holiday magazine photos. This year, I decided to make one for myself. No instructions were readily found, but I figured it couldn’t be terribly difficult to stick gumdrops on a branch.

This will be no surprise to anyone who knows me, but I indeed ran into some difficulties. I am a bit of a craft clutz, though I harbor grand dreams. Many times I have admired Martha Stewart’s wizardry, only to be stymied at the first step (though to be fair, I’m not sure any mere mortal can perform her handmade miracles). To be honest, a nun (a cousin at that!) lost her temper while attempting to teach me to knit. So, you get the idea. Still, I persevered on my initial if-I-can-do-it-anyone-can project.

A few lessons I learned:

  • Assorted color spice drops are not so easy to find, though my local Dollar Tree came to the rescue.
  • Branches are not as sturdy now (at least not in the northern U.S.) as in the summer. Twigs snap easily, especially when weighted down by the seemingly lightweight gumdrop. “Gumdrops keep falling on my head” keeps playing in my mind.
  • Be sure to find a balanced branch with a long base. Once I finally found a sturdy branch with enough twigs to support a rainbow of gumdrops, I happily skewered the colored candies. Unfortunately, I only realized when I was done, that the twig was hopelessly unbalanced. even a weighted vase wouldn’t stay upright with my grand creation. Fortunately, improvisation struck, and I now have a lovely gumdrop wall decoration. Of course my husband is slightly less impressed when he has to manipulate the delicate (read precarious) branch when opening and closing the drapes. Still, it is a bit of festive fun that the kids and the kids-at-heart can enjoy making.
  • If you are looking for an outlet for your extra gumdrops (besides the joy of eating them), you can try the gumdrop fudge recipe at Taste of Home. I haven’t tried this yet (we gobbled down our leftover candies), but the recipe looks easy and delicious.

For my simple example, I just used a branch (free) and a half bag (including some for snacking – fifty cents). In trying to find the origin of the gumdrop tree, I stumbled upon Oregon Live, which includes steps to make a much more substantial gumdrop forest.

So, go forth – be crafty and thrifty!

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