Holiday Party and Ornament Exchange

christmas decor at an ornament exchange party

Make your house fair as you are able, trim the hearth and set the table. Eleanor Farjeon (1881-1965)

Every early December, for the past 10 years, my friend Cindy thoughtfully decorates her home, stocks up on red and white wine, prepares sweet and savory edibles, displays them on lovely plates, platters and wooden boards, and invites about 20 neighbourhood moms over to mix and mingle. Before the evening ends, we gather around the tree and exchange Christmas ornaments.

Such hospitality is wonderful for folks like me who are slow to catch the Christmas spirit.

Here’s a peak around her cozy and elegant home on that particular night. Maybe it will ignite your Christmas spirit, too.

DSC_5481simple holiday decorAbove: A single branch trimmed with small felt ornaments in a pot topped with moss. Simple and lovely.warm black bean and chipolte dipAbove: I wished I had taken a photo of this yummy Warm Black Bean and Chipolte Dip before I dug into it. It’s served pretty much right out of the oven, hence the kitchen towel around the handle. It protects hands and fingers, and it’s pretty.

pomegranates, three wisemen, poinsettas, christmas decor

Above: Less is more; three wise men made from recycled tin from Bloomfields, a row of poinsettias and a platter of pomegranates.
simple, natural holiday decor, papperwhitesAbove: Paperwhites and dogwood branches.
an advent calendar, stacking santas, glass christmas trees and christmas lights
Above: Decorations to be treasured for years to come. I love the wooden tree advent calendar and the Santa nesting doll. The beautiful glass Christmas trees are from Bloomfields.

christmas decor

dessert table at ornament exchange party
christmas decor, under the tree
Above: Everyone brings a wrapped ornament and places it under the tree. We draw numbers from a hat, gather near the Christmas tree for dessert, and then take turns choosing a wrapped ornament. You never know what you’ll get.
porcelain christmas ornament, ornament exchange gatheringporcelain christmas ornament, ornament exchange gatheringfelt ornaments, ornament exchange party
simple and natural holiday decor, red berry wreath

Making herbal sachets

lavender sachetsI believe in the healing power of flowers and herbs, and I love fabric. This post is about combining those two things to create something special and uplifting.

I purchased dried lavender when we were in the South of France this summer. Its scent was irresistible. After all, lavender is one of the most popular aromas in the world, one that’s been known to help change moods for the better, ease stress, soothe a headache, as well as reduce anxiety and insomnia.

Now for the fabric. There’s this little East Indian grocery store here in the city where you can buy basmati rice in nifty burlap bags. I’m no hoarder but I can’t bring myself to throw the bag out after the rice is gone. I’m a big burlap fan, and I love the red and blue printing on the bag. And the picture of the elephant, of course.making lavender sachets using basmati rice bag

The other day I opened the cabinet and saw the stack of burlap rice bags on one shelf, and the bag of lavender below it. Then it hit me. Lavender sachets!

making lavender sachets suzanne mccarthyIn case you don’t know, sachets are small cotton pouches filled with dried herbs and/or flowers, and are the traditional way to scent drawers, cupboards and closets. They’re wonderfully tactile and smell great.

Lavender is a popular filler but any fragrant dried herb can be used: eucalyptus, lemon balm, peppermint, chamomile. Whatever herbal aroma inspires you. You can mix different herbs together, too. You aren’t limited to herbs either; dried flower petals do quite nicely, too.

When I ran out of lavender I used the dried peony and lemon balm saved from the garden.

peony petals, making herbal sachetsdried lemon balm, making herbal sachets

making herbal sachets suzanne mccarthyTo boost the aroma I added a few drops each of lavender, geranium and lemon. Essential oils help ensure the scent of the sachet is tangible and effective.

making herbal sachets with flowers, leaves and essential oils

As for fabric, it’s best to use one that’s breathable, like cotton and linen. I washed the burlap before sewing to ensure it was nice and soft, and it sewed up beautifully. If you have old handkerchiefs or bed linen, use those. If you’re handy with a sewing machine sew your own sachets. If you don’t sew, create simple little bundles from pieces of cut cloth and tie the ends together with ribbon or string. Or you can use the little muslin bags often found in the spice section at your natural food store.

making herbal sachets, suzanne mccarthy

If you plan on sewing your sachets, there are tons of tutorials on the internet offering different methods, like this one.

Here are notes on how I made mine:

  1. For each sachet, cut out pieces of fabric whatever size or shape you want. I cut out squares and rectangles but they can be circular, heart-shaped, triangular, etc. They can be as big or as small as you like.making lavender sachets with basmati rice bags
  2. Place their right sides together and sew around the outside about 1/2 inch from the edge, leaving an opening for filling.
  3. Turn the fabric inside out and iron flat, turning down the extra fabric and pressing it flat where the opening is.
  4. Stuff your sachet with lavender or whatever stuffing you’re using. Use a funnel to make this easier. You can make one out of paper.making lavender sachetsmaking lavender sachets
  5. Finish sewing your sachet shut. You can do this by hand with a needle and thread using a slip stitch. I finished mine on the sewing machine using a zigzag stitch and continued it all the way around.

Place sachets under a pillow or slip one into your pillowcase.

Tuck one in your sock and underwear drawers, and between your bath towels and linens.

lavender sachets between towels

Throw one in the dryer to make your clothes smell fresh and scent the surrounding air.

After extended use (about 3 months) massage sachets to release essential oils to ensure a longer lasting smell.

It goes without saying but, since we’re entering the season of giving and all, herbal sachets make wonderful gifts for old and young alike. A stack of two or three tied with a ribbon would be delightful.