Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Christmas Carols - Daisy Banks

Thank you, Diane, for your kind offer to help me celebrate the release of my new book Christmas Carols, published by Liquid Silver Books on the 10th of August.       

I know readers might think it a little odd to be thinking about Christmas in August but in Victorian England, where my story is set, people were used to starting their Christmas preparations early.

When I taught history one of the activities my students completed in the autumn term was to make pomander balls. These were made in early October so they would be ready for a Christmas re-enactment celebration. Everyone in school enjoyed the fragrance and so many people said it made them think Christmas was on the way. I only have to smell orange and cloves to recollect those fun times.

In Victorian England pomanders were used to help keep linen insect free, to fragrance rooms and dispel unhealthy miasmas, (nasty smells). The idea an unpleasant stink could make you ill wasn’t refuted until the brilliant work of Dr. John Snow in the late 1840s through to the 1850’s where he isolated the cause of a cholera epidemic in London to water and not the ever present stink.  Yet even after his success in 1854 the notion bad smells caused illness remained for some time.

You might notice if you buy a period property in England that if the outhouse or outside lavatory are still standing, there is usually a large lilac bush growing nearby and sometimes roses too, to sweeten the air.

This is an easy recipe for a pomander ball.

Use as many large oranges as you want to make into pomanders, or if you are making this with little children you can use a juicy Satsuma for each child.

A length of bright ribbon in a suitable festive shade.

A large bag of cloves with stalks. This is important as some culinary cloves are treated and destalked before being put into jars. You need the stalks to push the cloves into the orange.

I usually tied the ribbon after the cloves were in place as the oranges tend to leak juice.

Any kind of segmented pattern made by pushing the cloves into the orange is suitable and obviously the more cloves you use the stronger their scent. You can score a pattern onto the orange with a sharp knife if you wish or you can create freely.

The cloves can be quite hard to push in so you can use a cocktail stick to pre-make holes in the skin or use a thimble to protect your thumb as you push the cloves in.

Make sure you leave gaps in your pattern for where the ribbon is to be tied on.

Once you have made your pattern, tie on the ribbon and hang your pomander somewhere dry and airy so it can dry out. This process can take some days.

I have only ever had one lot of pomanders go bad and that was because someone left a window open and the damp got to them.

There are more complex recipes for pomander balls which call for Orris powder, Cinnamon, Nutmeg, and Allspice. You can use these if you wish or rub a mixture of them all onto the skin of the orange before you stick it with cloves.

This has to be one of the simplest and fun activities to do with children. You can use the smaller pomanders to decorate your tree and the larger ones to fragrance rooms.

While he strolled behind the dog, he considered what he’d say to Mrs. Broadbrace tomorrow. When she sang, as she had so naturally, unknowingly he’d surmised, as he played this afternoon, she was pitch perfect. A gift such as hers ought to be encouraged. At the very least, she should sing in the choir. What he would like best would be for her to sing solo to his accompaniment. The high notes she could reach had caressed his senses like the trained voice of one of the best opera singers might. She’d a pretty laugh too, that woman, not many women had a laugh like hers, light like a mountain stream dancing over pebbles. The comment she’d laughed at hadn’t been especially funny, but…
Sympathy! Who needed sympathy? No one. Since his earliest childhood, he’d met it a thousand times and it had done him not an ounce of good. Truth and commitment, those were the things to help people along the road of the human condition.
Several thoughts rose but he shook his head, no good to be anything but honest, though not brutal. He would try his best not to sound dismissive of the flowers but it had to be something like; “Madam, your flowers are afflicting me and they have to go. Relegate them to the side isles and the altar area, and the fewer blooms you use the better. I don’t want them anywhere near the organ, but I do want you in the choir.”
Blue paused and Stephen waited for the dog. When Blue again pulled a little on the leash, they both moved on down the street.
That would be perfect. The woman could put her wretched blooms in other areas of the church far enough away with luck to allow him the luxury of breath. Another darn good point, he couldn’t be the only one made uncomfortable by her lilies. Yes, she’d have to understand, and modify the arrangements she made, for the common good. He hoped she’d be lady enough not to sulk or throw a tantrum at the request. He recalled her soft fragrance and once again the low laugh.
Yes, she seemed very lady-like.
Blue gave a throaty bark, and Stephen stopped still. They’d gone too far. Blue had a better nose than his. He sniffed like the dog and a faint whiff of the gasworks made him do Blue’s bidding and turn around. “I agree, Blue. Time to go home.”
The wind blowing into them as they journeyed back grew stronger, and gusts tugged at his coat as they walked. The blasts of air buffeted against him, and the raw element held the scent of frost and snow. Stephen sniffed, and again, uncertain if the lilies still afflicted him or if it were the chill of the night.
Next recital night he’d know for certain because the church would be clear of lilies.


Stephen Grafton, the blind organist at Holy Trinity Church, is gaining a reputation for his fine playing and compositions. Alice Broadbrace’s initial venture back into society after years in deep mourning brings her to the notice of the talented organist, and he offers her the opportunity to sing a solo carol to his accompaniment. His courage convinces her to find her own, while her charm entices him into thoughts of romance. A difficult walk in a snow storm is only the beginning of Stephen and Alice’s journey to happiness. Enjoy this sweet Victorian tale of talent and love blossoming.

Thanks for reading
Daisy Banks

Find Daisy Banks here
Website http://daisybanksnovels.yolasite.com/
Twitter @DaisyBanks16
Facebook http://on.fb.me/18iRC35    

Buy Links
Barnes and Noble  http://bit.ly/1NWh8gi

Daisy Banks is the author of
Soon to be available with Liquid Silver Books Serving the Serpent
Christmas Carols
Marked for Magic
To Eternity
A Perfect Match
Valentine Wishes
A Gentleman’s Folly
Your Heart My Soul
Fiona’s Wish
A Matter of Some Scandal
Daisy’s books are available here
Daisy Banks writes a regular monthly story in the Sexy to Go compilations.

Attribution for Orange Pomander Ball image

1 comment:

  1. Thanks so much for hosting me, Diane. It's always lovely to visit.


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