You may have finished your holiday decorations, decking the halls with gaiety.
We’d like to add a few small things that we especially enjoy, whether for visitors or as a treat for ourselves.
1. BOWLS OF SPICES
Holiday-scented candles are lovely, but require close watch to guarantee against fires.
Instead, we buy cinnamon, cloves and orange peel in bulk (and if you like, cardamom pods star anise), and place them in small, attractive bowls around the house.
Powdered cinnamon at the base of the bowl provides more aroma than cinnamon sticks; but you can add a few of the latter for eye appeal. Cutting the sticks in half releases more aroma
The natural fragrance is a delight every time you pass the area—so much better than store-bought potpourri.
2. HOLIDAY TEAS
You can purchase special holiday tea bags, but there are other options.
Constant Comment is enjoyable year-round: spiced tea in black, green and decaf.
Here’s a recipe to make your own spiced tea from regular tea bags (black or green). Make a batch and keep it in the fridge. When guests arrive, warm it in the microwave.
For a quick fix, add some cloves, star anise, allspice and/or a cinnamon stick to regular tea while it’s steeping. Strain prior to serving.
If you’d like to add some spirit, add a teaspoon of brandy, rum or vodka. Add a shot, and you’ll have a hot holiday cocktail.
3. HOLIDAY COFFEE
There are numerous options from which to choose. Two, for example:
Barnie’s Santa’s White Christmas Coffee is flavored with caramel, coconut, nuts and vanilla.
Starbucks has Peppermint Mocha Latte and Holiday Blend, with maple and herbal notes.
You can also give holiday coffee as gifts to people who enjoy flavored coffees.
4. MULLED WINE OR CIDER
Prepare mulled wine or cider in advance; then refrigerate it until time comes to warm it up.
If you’re in a warm climate, serve it as is: iced.
Here are easy recipes.
5. HOLIDAY CAKE
If holiday cookies won’t last more than a day in your house, keep a traditional holiday cake or bread in the freezer, and offer a slice with tea or mulled wine. The cake will defrost while the tea is brewing; or send it to the microwave for 10 seconds.
Fruit cake is dense and filling.
Gingerbread loaf cake has a medium density.
Pandoro, panettone and panforte are Italian sweet yeast breads that are light and airy, and won’t spoil dinner (here’s the difference).
Stollen is the traditional German Christmas bread, that dates to the area of Dresden in 1437. It’s a fruit bread of nuts, spices, and dried or candied fruit, coated with powdered sugar or icing sugar. It’s a drier style than the Italian fruit breads, but just as delicious.
You don’t need to bake: All of these are available from bakeries and grocers.
This is the busiest season of the year, but we wish you a respite for rest.
 Make your own potpourri with bulk spices (photo © Andrey Zhuravlev | Dreamstime.
 Christmas spiced tea (photo courtesy Ogelsby Mansion).
 Take a look at specialty holiday coffees (photo © Marta Holka | Dreamstime).
 Mulled cider (photo courtesy Hella Cocktail Co.).
 Panettone (photo courtesy Bauli).