» December 2011 «


Spiced Orange Chai Concentrate


Merry Christmas from the West Coast! Jack and I arrived safely this weekend and have been keeping ourselves busy visiting the family and soaking in the fresh smell of Oregon air.

[![](jekyll_uploads/2011/12/chaispicetea-325x487.jpg "chaispicetea")](http://www.sweetpeonies.com/2011/12/spiced-orange-chai-concentrate/chaispicetea/) Photo Courtesy of: Foodie With Family

While preparing for all the Christmas get-togethers, I realized I previously promised you all a recipe for Spiced Orange Chai Concentrate. I think I may have even teased you with a comment about how wonderful it tastes but never actually gave you the recipe–so rude. Anyways, this recipe is great for your Christmas get-togethers and as a bonus, it makes your house smell delicious enough to eat.

Orange Chai Concentrate Prep Time: 5 minutes Cook Time: 30 minutes Total Time: 35 minutes Ingredients * 10 Bags Black Tea * 1 Packet Mulling Spices * 1 tsp Cinnamon * 1/2 Orange * 1/2 c. Brown Sugar * 1 Tbsp Honey * 1 Tbsp Vanilla extract Directions 1. Pour 4-1/2 cups of water into a pot and bring to a boil. Make sure to use a pot with a tight-fitting lid. Add the tea bags, mulling spices, cinnamon and orange slices to the pot. Once the mixture is boiling, turn off the stove, apply the lid and allow the concentrate to steep for 20 minutes. 2. Once the 20 minutes is over, pour the mixture through a fine mesh strainer (we used a reusable coffee filter to strain). Strain a second time if needed. 3. Pour concentrate back into the pot and stir in the brown sugar, vanilla and honey.

To enjoy your concentrate, simply mix equal parts milk to concentrate. You can serve this over ice or with warmed milk.

We made jars of this for Christmas gifts this year. This can be a really easy and cute idea. Simply fill a mason jar with concentrate, apply the thin plate of the lid, cover with a scrap of Christmas fabric, then screw the outer part of the lid over the fabric. Tada! Easy wrapping for orange chai Christmas gifts.

Here’s the link to the original Spiced Orange Chai Concentrate recipe. The main difference is they used individual spices instead of one mulling packet. I chose the packet simply because it’s cheaper. They also used a ginger root, which I’m sure tastes great but in case you don’t have one on hand, doing without tastes just as wonderful.

Happy steeping!


Christmas at the Farm


When I first started working out at Aunt Willie’s Wildflowers, I assumed that the end of summer meant the end of workshops and pretty arrangements, luckily, I was mistaken. As if the pumpkin workshop wasn’t cool enough, come December, Linda holds a Christmas centerpiece workshop. The Christmas centerpieces are always beautiful with a variety of styles.

The centerpiece above is my attempt this year. I really like the touches of gold throughout it. Since we are heading home in 2 days (yay!), I decided not to waste my centerpiece on our empty home and gifted it to one of my favorite professors. I know, what a suck-up.

These centerpieces are very simple to make, all you need is a tray, a block of oasis, and lots of greenery. We soaked the oasis in water, cut it to fit the trays (if necessary), and started assembling.

Here are a few of the basics to assembling an oasis centerpiece:

Choose one type of greenery for your first row, my first one was pine, insert ends into the oasis at an angle. You want to cut all your greenery (for all three rows) 8-10 inches long, and space 1-2 inches apart. Row #2 will be up 1-2 inches and will align with the spaces so you won’t have gaps.

Depending on how full your branches are, each row should use about 12 branches total (that’s 4 on each side and 2 on the ends if your centerpiece is the size of a whole block of oasis).

Pick a different greenery for your second layer, I used cedar, and start going around the oasis 1-2 inches up from the first row. Follow the same principles as the first. Pick a third greenery for your top row (this is the top of your sides, not the top of your oasis).

Once the sides are covered, choose a more decorative greenery to start covering the top of your oasis, angling the outer branch slightly upward. I used brown tipped cedar, try to use a more decorative type of branch because this layer will be more visible.

Use any other greenery/shrub/leaf to fill in the top and any holes you may have. I like to go back and place a few magnolia leaves in various places throughout the layers–the shine make the centerpiece look fancy and helps the textures stand out. This is also when I went back through and added bits of yellow.

Now it’s time to add other decorative elements to the top of your centerpiece–dried fruit slices, whole apples, hydrangea, nuts, pine cones, candles. You can use pins, mini-stakes, or hot glue to hold everything in place. I used holly branches, a few slices of dried limes, and Queen Anne’s Lace.

Remember to branch out and stretch your creative capacities. The decorating options with these centerpieces are limitless so take your time and enjoy showing off the final product to friends and family throughout the holiday season.

If you haven’t had a chance to join our site, please do so in the right hand column. Once we hit 50 people we will put everyone’s names into a drawing for a fun prize. Be sure to check out our facebook page as well. Merry Christmas!



My Oregon Love Affair


We have officially reached December and I am SO extremely excited. Really, I can’t put into words how great it feels to finally be in December. Why does December mean so much to me this year? I get to go home! It feels so great to finally write those words. It has been 2 years since Jack and I have made it home to Oregon. It seems silly but I am so excited just to see my hometown and drive the same old streets.

In the past two years I have missed 5 weddings, 4 births, many graduations, and 3 funerals–so you can see why I am so anxious to be home and love on all our friends and family who have been through so much.

We love our life here in Tennessee & our wonderful friends, but it’s true what they say, “there’s no place like home”–and I’m going there for 2 weeks!

Because I can barely contain my excitement about Oregon, I decided to finally put my old Oregon map to use.

Tools:

2 canvases
1 map
4 antiquing chalks (burnt red, brown, gold, orange)
1 glue stick

Instructions:

Cut map in half, or appropriate size to fit your canvases. Apply a liberal amount of glue to each canvas and carefully apply the map. Gently fold the map around the canvas corners. Use dark brown and burnt red chalk to dust the canvas edges. Brush gold and orange chalks gently over the surface of the map in various areas until you have achieved the desired affect.

I also used red thread to stitch a little heart around our hometown. Such a fun way to celebrate your roots!

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