Whole Spice Ornaments
As you may remember, I received a jar of mulling spices for Christmas last year. I never did mull a darn thing, but I did make Hot Chai Cereal several times for my kids, to much delight (theirs) and surprise (mine).
Spices don’t last long, so when I came across this inventive way to use them up, I jumped on it. It combines my favorite things: seasonal crafts that yield a product you actually want to use, fun things to do with my kids, and yummy smelling stuff. So, we made spice ornaments!
As per usual, I did not create this idea. I cannot claim creativity in the artistic arena. You want a closet organized, a desk sorted, a multi-page spreadsheet formatted? Yeah, I’m your girl. Art?? Not so much. So, I turned to What To Do At Home With The Kids. It turns out, spices aren’t just for eating.
First, I sorted out the biggest spices for the kids to decorate with.
If you are doing this from scratch, purchase star anise from the store. What a perfect decoration! I just went with what I had, which did not include the stars. (For some inexplicable reason, I did actually have cinnamon sticks in the house, as well as the mulling spices.) You should also get some cloves, cardamom pods, and allspice. Here’s what that all looks like:
After keeping some aside for decorating, I toasted the remaining spices just to make the house smell extra fantastic. Which it did.
Then, I ground them up (bwahahaaa!).
Next, two cups of flour go into a large bowl.
Then, head out to the garage to get a cup of your weird salt. Wait, that’s just me. You would probably be okay going to your cupboard.
A good friend of mine, who was a gourmet foods importer, gave me this five jillion pound tub of large crystal sea salt. It took me three years, two moves, and several trips to the dumpster intending to dump it, then changing my mind and trudging back upstairs with it again, to figure out what to do with it. Every so often, I scoop out a few cups, crush it in a giant mortar and pestle, then spoon it into a salt grinder. I haven’t purchased salt in nearly a decade.
Interestingly (maybe) is now that I’m getting to the bottom of the tub, I see water. Actual seawater. It’s still there! Isn’t that amazing? Mildly intriguing? No? Moving on.
Mix the salt and spices into the flour.
The recipe calls for six tea bags of Chai. I had about 7 tablespoons of whole spices which is roughly equivalent, okay – very roughly equivalent, to six tea bags. Hey, we aren’t eating these things, so I’m not a stickler for measurements.
Just make sure you pour the tea through a strainer. You don’t want whole spices inside your ornaments – just on top.
All those loose spices hold onto a lot of water – they’re not as easy as tea bags to squeeze out. So, I added a few more sprinkles of water, as the boys kneaded it.
Roll it out on a floured surface.
Cut out your ornaments.
Poke holes in them with a straw. Make sure they are big enough to accommodate whatever you’re going to use to string them. They aren’t gonna get any bigger when they bake.
Push the spices in, wherever you want.
A little tip: press the spice itself, with, say, a fingernail, rather than pressing the spice AND its surrounding area with your big old fingertip. Pressing the spice alone pushes it in and creates a nice little memory foam pillow for it. Pressing the entire area with your ham fingers just flattens the dough. Word to the wise.
A lot of these spices fell right off because, well, YOU try explaining the pressing technique to bitty children who have yet to master fine motor skills. Just let them have fun and press them in for them, if you want.
Fun at Home with Kids went so far as to glue on the loose bits after they cooled. I bow down to them, as I stand by my decision not to do that. (Pilates. Haha.)
They turned out random and rustic, but beautiful. Just like nature.
There’s just something I love about the way these look. In fact, the color palate reminds me of the party Martha Stewart threw for her granddaughter’s first birthday.
Oh, yeah, I was there. Or not.
A more sophisticated child’s party, I’ve never seen on the pages of a magazine, and yet it was very inviting. We recreated that color scheme here, if not the exquisite marzipan animal cakes. In any case, something about the tone-on-tone natural browns that feels warm and calm and pleasing to me. Add some white or clear glass beads, and some tinsel on your tree, and you’ve got a sparkly, natural winter theme.
This is such a fun alternative to cookie decorating if you’re looking to avoid all that sugar – for your kids or for you – or if you just want to do something different this holiday season. It also makes nice little gifts that the kids can give away for Christmas.