Simple and Wonderful Do-it-Yourself Pomanders

It’s no secret that I absolutely love Christmas. Perhaps it’s the inheritance of the December baby, whose favorite birthday celebration for five years in a row was to go see The Nutcracker wearing a gargantuan taffeta hair bow and sporting a fur muff (some things never change… Sweetheart is taking me to see it at BAM on Tuesday, and maybe I’ll wear my Samantha muff). My holiday love, though, probably comes from growing up in Colonial Williamsburg, where, every year, the season starts with a bang at the Grand Illumination celebration- where the streets of the colonial town are lined with bonfires and it is mandatory for every household to put white candles in the windows. Oh how wonderful to go to the Raleigh Tavern Bakery and get one of the amazingly dense and spicy gingerbread cookies and walk the streets of Williamsburg in the clear chill and look at the decorations. Every railing and lintel festooned with magnolia leaves and pineapples, boxwood and pine roping, and, of course pomanders. For inquiring minds, here’s a full history of pomanders (from the french pomme and ambre, meaning, literally, apple of amber), but in short, in the absence of giant inflatable snowglobes for the yard, colonial households would stud the thick skins of precious oranges, lemons, and other fruits with a design of cloves to fill their houses with the heavenly scent of bright citrus and pungent-sweet spice. Ah-Mazing.Last week I had the girls over to drink wine, talk about what we’d missed in our whirlwind lives since we last saw each other, and to make pomanders. You just need:

-A large container of cloves; each pomander will use 100 or so cloves depending on your design, so you want to be sure to have enough
-Fruit; this year I used oranges, lemons, and pomegranates but you can also use limes or apples… anything you want, really.
-A poking utensil; I used this moustache corkscrew, but also on the table was a meat thermometer and one side of a corn-on-the-cob holder. This is not an exact science.

Decide on a design- stripes, lines, and swirls work wonderfully as do harlequin and argyle patterns, or even random polka dots.

Poke a hole in the skin of the fruit in the shape of the design you envision and put a clove in each hole. The cloves are incredibly aromatic, but they can be kind of sharp.

If your fingers start to hurt from pushing the cloves into the fruit try using a thimble.

It’s incredibly easy to make these yourself, and unbelievably satisfying to end a night with a belly full of wine and root vegetables and a bowl of beautiful, fragrant, and timeless pomanders that will keep for weeks, looking lovely and smelling wonderful whatever your holiday season may bring. They gave my apartment the feel of a gingerbread brownstone for my holiday party- incredibly festive.

Wearing Fresh Flowers

I went home to Virginia last weekend for a dear friend’s wedding and to deliver my mother some Ramps and Sunchokes from the Union Square farmers market (I’ve been obsessed with this pairing for the past three weeks and can’t believe that there are still ramps available- I read this my first spring living in New York and have made the yearly appearance of ramps at the market a New-York-specific-ritual for myself… but I digress).

I was getting ready to go to this wedding with my mama in what, now that I try to put it into words for the first time, is not just a bathroom but a full on dressing room with a chaise lounge (I have not realized the import of this until this second- I have always just called it “Mama’s bathroom”… well it does have a tub). Getting ready and being in here is always awesome, since I was little snooping around in her stuff has always been the best.thing.ever- the only difference is that now, if I am very nice, she will actually let me wear some of her jewelry.

So, my father comes in and we’re just lounging around looking at old photographs and talking about hair-stuff and he hands me a tiny parcel with this inside:

Immediately the stories come out- first thing you need to know: we are from Williamsburg, Virginia, as in Colonial Williamsburg. So, when my father was a small boy he and his two brothers went down to the CW silversmith and picked out this brooch for my grandmother for Mother’s Day. My grandmother is an amazing lady, a horticulturist and philanthropist, a mover and a shaker, and the grandest possessor of hats, scarves, and jewels I have ever had the good fortune to meet. She, at some point, loses this brooch and secretly goes and replaces it without telling her sons. Then FIFTEEN years later she finds it again out in the garden by the woodpile (because, of course, she’s the kind of lady to wear fancy jewelry out by the woodpile). By this time, my parents are married and now Gramma has two brooches- so she gives the replacement pin to my mother. By this time in the conversation, my mother has pulled hers out. Apparently, they don’t make them anymore, but Daddy has found one somewhere (perhaps out by the woodpile) and thinks that since Gramma and Mama both have them, Nan should too. How divinely amazing!!

As you can see, I filled my tiny vase-pin with water, went right out and cut a peony from the garden, and went along to the nuptials feeling fine, like a classic Virginia lady (albeit in an Abigail Lorick dress), and most importantly- very loved.

Here are some modern options (if you don’t have a southern woodpile that keeps birthing brooches on the world):

Brass boutinier pins from calliopevintage
This is made from the handle of a knife from an old silver pattern from thefashionedge
Glass pin from the Opulent Poppy