Sometimes the presentation makes the present. Even humble gifts can seem like a treasure when they’re wrapped with affection, verve and attention to detail. With a little assistance right off the spice rack, you can add a natural, artistic look to your wrapping paper, ribbons and bows, while offering the recipient aromatic, sensual pleasure. Create elaborate designs or simply add a cinnamon stick or two — either way is sure to please.
A simple way to add an herbal flair to your gifts is to attach whole spices to the outside of the wrapped gift. Not only do whole spices look great, their scent just says “holidays.”
Once you’ve wrapped your gift, select your favorite decorative spices and either glue them directly to the wrapping or, for longer-lasting beauty, tie or glue them to the ribbon of your package. White, water-based glues, such as Elmer’s, won’t work well for this project. They take too long to dry and will wrinkle your gift wrap as the glue sets. Choose a low-temperature or “cool melt” glue gun with plenty of glue sticks for speed, accuracy and less mess.
The benefit of adding whole spices is that it can be done at the last minute to personalize gifts. Most likely, your herbal accents still will end up getting thrown out with the other wrapping debris. For a longer-lasting herbal decoration, try making the simple “Spice Ornaments” on Page 26 that double as tree ornaments once the package has been unwrapped.
Adding a floating frame around whole spices and attaching them to the front of a plain gift bag, or even to the top of a gift, adds intrigue and style. (See photos at right.)
1 piece framing paper (such as colorful wrapping paper), 5 by 7 inches*
1 piece corrugated cardboard, 5 by 7 inches*
Glue stick or double-sided tape
Sharp knife, such as a utility or exacto knife
Cutting surface, such as a cutting mat or board
1 piece background paper (choose a subtle solid), 5 by 7 inches*
Whole herbs and spices, such as cinnamon sticks, star anise and allspice
Low-temperature glue gun with extra glue sticks
Gift bag (or wrapped package)
*Cut materials smaller or larger depending on the size of your gift bag or wrapped package.
Glue the framing paper to the cardboard using a craft glue stick. Once the glue has dried, measure and cut a 21⁄2- by 4-inch rectangle (or larger if you like) out of the center of the cardboard/paper rectangle. This should leave 11⁄4-inch border on the long sides and 11⁄2 inches on the short sides of the border.
Rest the frame over the background paper and lightly trace the inside of the newly cut hole on the background paper. Set the cardboard rectangle aside and begin laying out your spices within the penciled rectangle. When you’re happy with the design and you’ve double-checked to make sure they’ll fit within the frame, glue the spices in place with a low-temperature glue gun.
Glue the back (cardboard side) of the frame and attach it to the background paper around the spices. After it has dried, with the gift bag folded flat, attach your new framed piece with a glue gun.
A great way to adorn packages is with scented ornaments friends and family then can then hang on their trees. This project is simple to put together and its only limits are your creativity.
1 cup ground spices, such as cinnamon, cloves and allspice
3⁄4 to 1 cup applesauce
Whole spices for decoration (optional)
In a bowl, mix cinnamon with 1⁄2 cup applesauce. Slowly add the remaining applesauce until you reach a clumpy, but slightly doughy, consistency — not wet or juicy. Dust a flat surface with ground cinnamon and roll dough 1⁄8- to 1⁄4-inch thick. Cut shapes out of rolled dough with cookie cutters and transfer to a foil-covered cookie sheet with a spatula. Carefully make holes for ribbon or string in the top of each shape (at least 1⁄8 inch from the edges), using a toothpick, straw or other small, round instrument. If you like, you can add whole spices for decoration at this point. Just make sure they’re tightly pressed into the dough.
Bake ornaments at 200 degrees for about 1 hour. Turn off oven and let cool on the pan for several hours or overnight to prevent breaking.
Remove cooled ornaments from pan, lifting foil slightly to loosen; loop ribbon or raffia through the hole on each and attach to gifts or hang from your tree or garland.
Dawna Edwards, former editor of The Herb Companion, enjoys spending the winter months creating warm treats and crafts in the kitchen.
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