Sunday, September 14, 2008

Homemade Fire Starters - Fruit and Potpourri string

Here is my personal favorite for homemade fire starters using stringed fruit and potpourri. Homemade fire starters using fruit? Are you daft, you may ask? Well no. This is a homemade fire starter with a twist - the twist being on the ambience created to "keep your fire going" during the holiday season in order to "string it" along! Get it...string...never mind. Anyway, this is not just on the functionality of the homemade fire starter. After you have made your Fruit and potpourri string, you must place it UNDER the fire on the embers, not just use it to start the fire. Once you use some of the other homemade fire starters outlined in this blog, then you can "keep the fire going" so to speak by putting in these little jewels. All of these materials can be used from the yard or from your refrigerator. Also, the best way to keep circulating the fragrance oils for their best intensity is, of course, FIRE!

Now, you may not want to see these little gems as homemade fire starters. I personally don't either. But they are fun to make, very decorative and "Christmasy" and, of course, their purpose is to "house" the aroma of the fragrance oils for the holiday season. So I included them in this blog for homemade fire starters anyway. There! It's my blog - I can do that! Enjoy!

Recipe for homemade fire starter - Fruit and Potpourri string
Ingredients needed: dried apple slices (see below for drying technique), dried orange slices (see below for drying technique), small, dried pine cones (test to make sure they are not "young" with sap still in them), and cinnamon sticks cut into 1 inch sections. As in all my blogs, the ingredients are cheap and/or free from your backyard. Now I start off with 3 apples and 3 oranges for this simple project. Also, if you will check out the Hispanic/Mexican section in your grocer's store, you will find cinnamon sticks cheaper there than the cinnamon sticks with the other spices on down the spice aisle. Because they are poorer in quality, they are also easier to cut because they are drier. And, because they are drier, they really drink up the fragrance oil. So in this case, cheaper is better. These are mainly for the eye appeal and a receptor to house the fragrance oils. Now if you want to make your string a constant aroma, I would only go with one fragrance oil (such as cinnamon, orange, or apple). But, I like to experiment around, so I use the true fragrance oils for each group, i.e., for the apple slices I will use an apple fragrance oil, for the orange slices, I will use an orange fragrance oil, and for the cinnamon sticks, I will use a cinnamon fragrance oil. Now bear in mind that only 1 drop is needed every 4th slice, and these $5, one oz bottles will go quite a ways for projects like these. Think of it this way to get a better handle on the size of these bottles. Your average fingernail polish bottle is .5 oz. So 2 of these would be the equivalent of what you get in 1 oz of the fragrance oil bottle. And if you think of it, your average bottle of fingernail polish will cost you at LEAST $5 and not last you nearly as long for these "drop at a time" projects. So it puts it in the proper perspective. If you are going to try any of these projects, I would go with 3 of the 1 oz. bottles (in any combination) of the apple, orange, and cinnamon fragrance oils. These 3 scents can be used in other projects in my blogs and the combination of the 3 is a great base aroma for most of your Christmas scents, so it works in perfect combination for your homemade fire starters of fruit and potpourri string. Why spend $15 for one Wal-Mart scented candle which will only fragrance a small section of your home, when you can spend the same amount for 3 bottles of fragrance oil on projects that can be used throughout your home and fragrance the entire house? Also, the scent will be there on a continuous basis as opposed to the candles only when they are lit.

How to dry orange slices: Preheat oven to 200 degrees. While heating, cut your orange slices in very thin sections. Place on greased cookie sheet flat. Bake for 2 hours. Remove from oven and let cool. When cool, store in dry area (window seal is fine) for about 2 days until ready to "string" with other ingredients.

How to dry apple slices: Preheat oven to 150 degrees. While heating, cut your apple slices in very thin sections. Place on greased cookie sheet flat. Bake for 30 minutes. At the tail end of the process, I like to sprinkle mine with cinnamon (say about the last 5 minutes of cooking). When you add your refresher oil later in the season, the base of the cinnamon "cooked" into the apple slices is really potently revigorated. Remove from oven and let cool. When cool, store in dry area (window seal is fine) for about 2 days until ready to "string" with other ingredients.

How to string: Any heavy duty sewing thread will do. Just make sure you use the "doubled" technique. An embroidery needle is highly recommended for this project in order to push through the pine cone needles and cinnamon sticks. I would make my thread about 18 inches long. You use a combination of stringing 2 slices of orange, then a cinnamon stick, 2 slices of apple, then a small pine cone (attach through one of the petals), and repeat the process until finished. You can complete the end knot with a bow of raffia. Once completed, add 1 drop of your fragrance oil on every other fruit section on the string. If you are using a combination of the fragrances, make sure and match the fragrance to its partner. Apple fragrance for apple slices, orange fragrance for orange slices, and cinnamon fragrance for cinnamon sticks.

Now, you are ready for its purpose. I must apologize here because I hang my homemade fire starter of fruit and potpourri string on the mantle all during Christmas. The Christmas home visual is more appealing than its use as a homemade fire starter. Plus, if it is placed by the fire, the aroma will intensify and keep that smell really "baking" through the season. Wait until the end of the season before you use it like the other homemade fire starters and delegate it to the fireplace. You will be glad you did. Enjoy!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Cedar branches - Homemade fire starter

The great thing about Cedar branches is you do not have to do much to them except add some fragrance oils. But you can also string them up much the same way as you do the homemade fire starter rope (see blog entitled Homemade fire starter rope). Also, when cedars like Douglas fir start drying out, they are GREAT to use as a homemade fire starter. You really need to step back when you add the "dry" ones to your fire. That is one of my favorite "post" Christmas treats. I love to throw the dried out cedar branches on the fire to hear the "crackle" and smell the aroma.

But the cedar aroma is too woodsy alone. I like to spice up my homemade fire starter cedar branches with scents like cinnamon, banana nut bread, and apple crisp. I found a great online store that sells 1 oz pure fragrance oils, all 1500 scents for under $5. If you will check out the other blogs, there are banners that will connect you to this online store. Simply type in fragrance oils in the search for box, once you access the website, and an alphabetical list from A-Z will pull up. Browse through and check out the Christmas time fragrances. There is a list of my favorites in some of the other blogs.

I use live Christmas wreaths that I make up each year myself. If you go to Home Depot or Lowe's, they will give you "FREE" tree trimmings after they rope up their Christmas trees. One of these fav stores of mine even has a big box labeled free Christmas tree trimmings that you can pick up after they place them there from trimming the trees. Many years back, I made an initial investment in wire Christmas tree wreaths. Each year all I have to do is load up the Jeep with free tree trimmings from my favorite home improvement store and head home to make up Christmas wreaths. If you buy the green floral wire from Wal-Mart, that is really the only investment you make for your wreaths, well that and wire cutters and small pruners for cutting the branches. But at Christmas time, every window in my home is decked out with live cedar Christmas wreaths.

So this year, why not add fragrance oils to your wreaths? Every time you open the front door to go in from shopping, scents like warm apple pie will greet you. I also hang my wreaths outside on the covered porch bannisters. There is nothing that will get you in the holiday mood more than smelling banana nut bread as you walk by these wreaths on your way to your car to go shopping. Only a drop or 2 on each wreath will last the entire Christmas season.

This is so much cheaper than scented candles which you will pay anywhere from $15-20 for the stronger scented ones. Also, unlike candles which can only burn while you are attending them, fragrance oils will last even while you sleep. And 1 bottle of $5 oil will last you throughout the entire Christmas season for all your projects.

With the economy going like it is, this year is the time to invest in homemade gifts scented with fragrance oils. Check out my other blogs for great, cheap Holiday ideas! Enjoy.

Homemade Fire Starter Ropes

This is a unique idea to display on your fireplace mantle during the Holiday Season. I call them homemade fire starter ropes. I live in the North Georgia Mountain area, so apple orchards are abundant around these parts. Every year, I trek out to my favorite apple orchard and get "free apple wood branches" from my connection, Mr. Stover of Stover Apple Orchards. When I first met Mt. Stover, I told him that he was missing a fortune by burning up all his felled apple trees. He laughed, scratched his head, and asked me to explain. I said never mind, but if you will let me take all the apple wood branches I can get, I will save you the trouble of burning them! When I did some research on the internet, I was amazed that fragrant apple wood sells in "gift" packages for more than $10 a bundle. I read that apparently apple wood is the most aromatic of all the scented woods, and it releases a smoky apple smell when burning. And it does too! When I built my new home, I christened the fireplace with my first fire burning of apple wood. Anytime I walked outside to get some more wood, and the wind was blowing, everywhere I sniffed, I could smell apples. It is still such a beautiful memory. So I got this great idea...

Now, I know that not everyone is blessed to live in God's country with apple orchards out your back door, down the road in the country. So here is what you do.

In the blogs below, there are banners for a great online fragrant oil store I found. The 1 oz fragrant oils are all under $5 each! Yes! And just 1 or 2 drops will last quite a long time. The whole bottle will last through several projects, I believe. If you scent oak wood branches (or any other firewood) on your homemade fire starter rope with these oils, the smell will really be released as soon as it hits the top of the burning firewood! The effect is just the same as real apple wood burning. So we will label these oak branches scented with apple oil the same wood. And actually, the smell is going to be quite stronger than the real McCoy too.

Start out by making 5 or 6 bundles of apple wood branches about 12 inches (or one ruler length) long. Include about 5 or 6 branches in each bundle, no more than a finger width in diameter. Now make sure you pick branches that are uniform to this measurement for a pleasing effect. Lay out your branches horizontally. Next, take raffia and wrap around each bundle tying a knot behind. Now to string these together, place them on a work area horizontally, one above the other, with about 2 inches between each "rung", with the backside (or knotted side) facing up to hide the ugly knot marks. You have to knot your raffia twice to connect the pieces, otherwise the whole thing will fall apart when you cut each section for burning. Make your connecting raffia "rope" about 6 inches long to account for the double knots, one knot around the lower bundle, and one knot around the upper bundle. String the raffia all along these bundles until you have a rope effect. Then hang the homemade fire starter rope on your mantle. When you are ready to start a fire, simply cut a bundle from the rope and place it in with your kindling. Your fire will be scented with the sweet aroma of apples. When you run out of homemade fire starter rope, simply replace it with a new one.

If you take oak branches and place 2 drops of fragrant apple oil onto each branch, the effect is still the same! Plus, the aroma will permeate the house while it is hanging by your fireplace, especially if there is a nice, warm fire going to "heat" up around the area of your homemade fire starter rope. With real apple wood, you cannot smell it until it is burning, so these "doctored" apple wood branches will smell much stronger, even hanging by your fireplace.

Just an idea for Christmas. You can get the same effect if you just bundle up these scented twigs in a decorative container sitting on your hearth. There are lots of ways to wrap the package...raffia is just one. You can also wrap up oak wood bundles with Christmas ribbon. But the scented wood on the fire...boy...that is an added bonus. If you click on the banner below this blog, and type in fragrance oils in the drop down box displayed, the list of oils will pull up alphabetically, from A to Z. Such aromas include apple cinnamon, banana nut bread, Christmas Eve, amish friendship, and apple crisp pie...the list goes on and on. Try this for this holiday season. It is a unique idea!

Scented Cotton Balls

In addition to your homemade fire starters, you can make these great scented cotton balls to use throughout your home during the Holiday Season. They are unique because, unlike scented candles, the fragrance permeates the air in a more "natural" way, oftentimes hidden from view. Candles are great but you have to extinguish them when left unattended. With these scented cotton balls, the flavor of Christmas will carry on throughout the season, whether you are in the room or not. EXTRA HINT: Heat up the fragrance oil before you apply to cotton ball. The aroma will be much more intense when you do this.

Here's what you do to create your scented cotton balls. Simply place 2 drops of fragrant oil on a cotton ball and place throughout your home during the season. Below is a partial list of great uses for these scented cotton balls.

1. Do you make Christmas baskets? I do! They are uniquely personal gifts that are quite inexpensve. Place 2 drops of coffee fragrance oil on a cotton ball and wrap up in cheesecloth, tied with raffia. Place this in the bottom of your gourmet coffee Christmas baskets during the holiday just before you deliver your basket.

2. Place 2 drops of Christmas fragrance oil on a cotton ball. Place in a dish behind the commode to freshen your bathroom during the holiay season.

3. Place 2 drops of fragrance oil on a cotton ball. Place in a small dish behind your kitchen cannisters. They are out of sight but not out of smell!

4. Place 2 drops Banana nut bread fragrance oil on a cotton ball. Wrap in cheese cloth. Place this in the bottom of your Christmas Baskets with baked cakes and pies.

5. Place 2 drops Christmas Eve fragrance oil on a cotton ball. Wrap in cheesecloth tied with raffia. Hang on your Christmas tree inside the branches for a sweet "where is that coming from" smell around your tree.

6. Place 2 drops fragrance oil on a cotton ball. Place this out of sight ANYWHERE inside your home to freshen the smell for Christmas. These are great around pet areas where smells are often hard to cover during the Christmas season.

All these scented cotton balls can be "freshened" during the season by replacing them wth new scented cotton balls.

Homemade Pine Cone Fire Starters

The autumn and Christmas seasons are just around the corner. This year, start early so you can relax and enjoy the season with the rest of your family and friends. Also, if you get these great ideas in place and give them time to "do their work," your whole house will be saturated with sweet Christmas smells well before the season kicks in. I enjoy wrapping my Christmas presents with old Christmas carols playing in the background and the house smelling of banana nut bread and cinnamon!

Why not make some pine cone fire starters? Just take a trip out to the woods and gather all sizes of pine cones. Be sure and take a sack or plastic laundry basket to collect your goodies. The only other ingredients you will need for your pine cone fire starters are candle wax, fragrance oil, food coloring (red and green for Christmas colors) and fireplace matches. These pine cone fire starters make GREAT hostess gifts too. Take a basket along for your favorite hostess during the holiday seasons and she will rave over these unique pine cone fire starters!

Using the "double boiler method," melt old candles or paraffin wax to begin your pine cone fire starters. To make a double boiler, simply place a pyrex or metal container inside a larger container of water on the stove and heat up. Place your old candles or paraffin wax inside the "dry" container. This is a great time to collect all those half used candles lying around the house and revitalize them for new uses. When the wax has melted to a liquid form, be sure and remove all old wicks before continuing. You can reserve these wicks for other recycling projects during the season. Then add 2 drops of red or green food coloring for that Christmas look. After this, add 3-4 drops of your favorite fragrance oil and stir to blend. Cut down the fire. Then, using tongs, dip each pine cone slowly into the liquid wax until completely coated, and voila! Instant pine cone fire starters! Allow the excess to drip into the wax container until it stops. Then place the pine cone fire starters onto wax paper and allow to completely harden.

Arrange the pine cone fire starters in a pretty basket. I scour all the thrift stores in the area for my holiday baskets. You can pick up great buys anywhere from $1 to $3. All these baskets are unique and BIG too! Also, I have found a great online store for fragrant oils. All their 1 oz bottles are under $5 and they have over 1500 scents to choose from. You can access their website by clicking on the banner below this recipe for pine cone fire starters. Don't forget the fireplace matches. To use your pine cone fire starters, simply place 1 or 2 on top of kindling and light the edge of one of the pine cone petals. When the smell dissipates, simply add another pine cone fire starter to keep that Christmas smell wafting through the house. You can also individually tag these with gift tags and raffia and include 3 or 4 in gift baskets that you are making up for the holidays. You can simply label the Christmas tag "pine cone fire starter - place me on top of your firewood for a sweet smell" or something like that. I include these in my gourmet coffee gift baskets, my homemade cakes and pies baskets, and you can throw a couple into your carry out basket that you pack your Christmas gifts in for traveling to the grandparents' house! Below is a list of the top fragrant oils that I use for the holidays. When you click on the banner below, simply plug the names of these fragrant oils into the search for box and hit enter. They will pull up instantly for ordering.

For autumn scents, I like: Acorn harvest, baked bread, pumpkin pie, amish friendship and apple cinnamon.

For Christmas scents, I like: Baked pie, holiday pine, pumpkin spice, vanilla cinnamon, all spice, 7up pound cake, all berry, amish friendship, apple cinnamon, apple crisp, apple pie, pumpkin pie, honey cinnamon, almond biscotti, baked bread, banana bread, blueberry muffin, butter cookie, butter rum, butterscotch, candy cane, caramel apple, carrot cake, cherries and chesnut, cherry cobbler, chestnut brown sugar, Christmas Cheer, Christmas Eve, and the highly requested Christmas scent of apples and oak (Sounds weird but it is touted as one of their most requested).

Some of my favorite coffee smells (for those gourmet coffee baskets) are: amaretto, hazelnut, chocolate raspberry, mocha cappuccino, and chocolate mint.

The list goes on and on. If you enter the keyword fragrance oils in the search for box, it will pull up the entire list from A-Z. Browse around the site because you can see I only made a partial list through the "Cs". The list continues right on through Z!

This is a fairly inexpensive and unique way to personalize your Christmas holidays. Also, these fragrant oils are potent enough that 2-3 drops is all you need to flavor the whole pot. The only real problem you will have is deciding which fragrant oil to use! Browse through the rest of my blog for more ideas to fragrance your home through the holiday season. I think you will have a lot of fun making up these great pine cone fire starters. Enjoy and May God Bless your Holiday Season!

Fragrant Ways to Build A Fire

Tips for creative homemade fire starters:

Autumn is coming and there is nothing more homey than to add fragrant, homemade fire starters to your fireplace. I love to start my fires with these homemade fire starters while I am cleaning up aound the house, reading on a leisurely Saturday afternoon, or drinking a hot cup of chocolate or apple cider. Homemade fire starters are easy to make with things you have around the house. Below find out how to make egg carton homemade fire starters. Browse my blog for other homemade fire starter ideas and how to package these unique homemade fire starters for gifts during the holiday season

ITEMS NEEDED FOR HOMEMADE FIRE STARTERS: All you need is a paper egg carton, candle wax from old candles, dryer lint (you heard rigtht), and for an extra kick some fragrance oils to get started with these homemade fire starters.

Everyone has old, unused candles and glass container candles lying around. You can melt these in a “double boiler” method. Simply fill a cooking pot with water and place the glass containers with candles inside. They will melt as the stove heats up. After the wax has melted, remove them from the stove. Careful though, handling melted wax is HOT business! Let the wax cool a little and remove the metal wicks (save the wicks for projects discussed further on this blog). If you have many old glass container candles, you can then combine all the melted wax into a measuring cup with a spout to make pouring easier for your homemade fire starters. If you do not have any old glass container candles, try purchasing paraffin wax from Wal-Mart. This is great too and you can then melt the paraffin in your microwave in any non-metal measuring cup for easier pouring. The same will work for old candles, but use the double boiler method. Just place the candles in a glass container and then place this into the cooking pot on the stove. Pull out the wicks from the candles once they start melting. When your wax is sufficiently melted enough, you are ready to start assembling your hamemade fire starters.

Next, line the bottom of each section of the egg crate with your dryer lint. Dryer lint is highly combustible and works as a great base for your homemade fire starters. Then, pour in the melted wax into each section just to the brim of each individual egg hole.

Then for your fragrant homemade fire starters, you can add just a drop of fragrant oils into each section of the egg carton. Mix it around while it is still hot and liquid. I use an eye dropper for this technique. I have found a great online company, The Scent Wizard's Fragrance superstore. All their 1 oz fragrance oils are under $5. I have included a list in the paragraph below for my favorite fragrance oils. You can access this site from this web. Once you have entered the web, just key in the below fragrance names in the search for box and it will pull up for ordering information. Just click on any of the banners below to access their site.

Here is a list of my personal favorites for autumn, Christmas, and coffee fragrance oils for your homemade fire starters.

Autumn: Acorn Harvest, Amish Friendship (aroma of fresh baked bread with notes of risin, nut and strawberries), Apple Cinnamon (apples with warm spicy cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla notes), and Baked Pie.
X-mas: Holiday Pine, 7up Pound Cake (hints of vanilla, almond, brown sugar, and roasted pecans), Pumpkin Spice, Apple Crisp (applies with warm spicy cinnamon, nutmeg, and vanilla notes),Vanilla Cinnamon.
Coffee: Amaretto, Hazelnut, Chocolate Raspberry, Mocha Cappuccino, and Coffee

As I stated, these fragrace oils for your homemade fire starters are not expensive and should last you through the next Christmas season, but if you are like me, you will use them up. They make great hostess gifts for your holiday parties. (See other blogs for packaging/holiday gift ideas for your homemade fire starters.)

After you have added the fragrance oil and the wax hardens, close the lid of the egg carton and store your homemade fire starters in the freezer until you want to use them. When ready to use these homemade fire starters, simply cut off a piece of the egg carton and place it in the bottom of your fireplace. It lights easy and burns long enough to get the rest of the fire started.

Browse through the rest of the blog for other great Christmas projects that are cheap, aromatic, and decorative. Enjoy!