Scented Pine Cones

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October hit Ottawa with a sudden drop in temperature and we were forced to turn the heat on for the first time this year, which made me sad. I don’t like the way a sealed-in house gets musty over the summer or winter, and with our massive piles of sad-looking carpet (which, no matter how much I steam clean it, still retains essence of smoker and large smelly dog, the previous tenants), our house gets musty – fast.

I’m not a huge fan of artificial perfumes or masking smells with other smells, but sometimes my cleaning regime needs a bit of a boost. I picked up these pine cones while walking Gren out on the Farm. You’ll note the dog poop bag I used to haul them home. This is often how I bring home my dog-walking finds.

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Wash them carefully in warm water to get rid of dirt and bugs and whatnot.

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Look at the fun colour they turned the water! Tannins are an interesting scientific thing.

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Shake them off and lay them on a baking sheet (if you like the baking sheet, line it with parchment paper to prevent any sap from sticking) and bake them for 1 hour at about 200°F so that they can dry out completely. Wet pine cones = mouldy pine cones, and we don’t want that.

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While that was going on, I quickly zested a lemon and an orange that had seen better days and tossed the peel into the oven as well to dry out. Waste not!

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When the pine cones are fully cooled, sprinkle them liberally with the essential oils of your choice. I went with clove and orange oils.

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Seal them (and any other scented objects you have, like the peel) in a plastic bag for 1 week to meld the scents together.

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Then display in a nice bowl and give them a good sniff as you walk by.

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Floating Citronella Candles

Floating Citronella Candles 17Spending time outdoors in the summer is always an opportunity for a good time, but dealing with the bugs that also want to spend some quality time with you is less good. And you can get giant buckets of citronella candles and citronella torches and all that stuff, but they lack a bit of elegance. So for this upcoming shindig I’ve got going on, I thought I’d add a little something fancy to my bug repellent and float some citronella candles in glass containers filled with water and greenery. I had trouble finding floating citronella candles, however, so I decided to make my own, and here’s how I did it. Floating Citronella Candles 13

The most important thing you need is citronella essential oil. Now, a lot of people find the scent to be a little off-putting, so I decided to add in some clove oil as well to mellow it out. Cloves are also a very good bug repellent.

Floating Citronella Candles 4And you need some wax. I picked soy wax for this project, because it has a lower melting point and tends to throw scent a little better than paraffin or beeswax (which of course has its own scent). Floating Citronella Candles 6

You also need some wee containers. I have these miniature tart tins that I picked up from Value Village a million years ago. I have never used them for tarts but they’re handy for lots of other things.

Floating Citronella Candles 1If you don’t happen to have miniature tart tins, a set of silicone muffin cups (or a silicone tray of any sort with small depressions in it) will also work quite well. Floating Citronella Candles 7

You’ll also need some wicks, which you can purchase, or you can make your own, which is what I did.

Floating Citronella Candles 8Chuck your wax into the top of a double boiler and set that to melting over medium-low heat. Remember that if you use flaked wax, as I did here, that the melted volume will be about half what the solid volume is. Add minimum 3 drops citronella essential oil per cup of wax, and use half the amount of any additional scent. Once it’s all melted, let it cool for a little bit before pouring it. Floating Citronella Candles 5
While that was melting and cooling, I sat down with my wicks and some hot glue.

Floating Citronella Candles 2Because my wicks don’t have those nifty metal bases, I had to attach them to the bottom of the containers I was using. Don’t use too much glue – you actually want this stuff to come off. Floating Citronella Candles 9

I didn’t bother doing this for the silicone ones, but the metal dishes I rubbed with petroleum jelly to ensure that the candle would come out again when it was done.

Floating Citronella Candles 10Then I carefully filled each container. I actually used one of the empty silicone muffin cups as a scoop and it worked really well. Floating Citronella Candles 11

I used straws and pens to hold up the wicks that were determined to droop.

Floating Citronella Candles 12Then I forced myself not to touch them for like AN HOUR. We had Gren’s sister Bakhita staying with us for the weekend and neither dog would come near me because I stank of citronella. Floating Citronella Candles 14

Once they were solid and cool I carefully popped them out of their containers. For the metal ones I wiggled them loose on the sides first, then turned them upside down and gave them a whack with a small hammer, and then it was easy to pull them out by the wicks.

Floating Citronella Candles 15I’m storing them until the shindig but here you can see a sample of my “vision” for how I’m going to set them up. Floating Citronella Candles 16