Making your own Christmas gifts this year? Have a go at handmade decorations using fruit and spices too, says Carol.
I enjoy decorating the house to look festive at Christmas and I love all those fabulous Christmassy aromas - orange, cinnamon and pine - wafting though the house. But I can't stand cheap, synthetic 'festive' fragrances, so prefer to keep my decorations simple and natural using fruits, vegetables, herbs and spices.
It's easy to make deliciously scented Christmas decorations. Their gloriously spicy, fruity aromas will suffuse a room and are far more pleasing than harsh artificial room fresheners. Follow our guide to making fruity Christmas tree decorations (pictured).
Make a fragrant citrus pomander by making holes about 6mm apart in a thin skinned orange using a skewer. Push a clove or star anise into each hole until the entire fruit is covered. Place in a warm place (I use the airing cupboard) to dry out, turning from time to time - this will take 3-4 weeks. To speed the process up, you can dry the pomander out in a very low oven for a few hours. Finish with a looped ribbon or pile into a bowl. For a stronger fragrance, paint the surface sparingly with oil of cloves and/or cinnamon oil.
Golden pomegranates look beautiful piled in a bowl with citrus pomanders. Cut a hole in the base of a pomegranate and scoop out the seeds. Stuff the cavity with newspaper. Wrap in more paper and leave in a warm place for a few days to dry out. Unwrap and remove the paper and leave for another couple of days in a warm place. Spray with gold paint and roll in sugar for a glittery finish.
Citrus night light holders smell wonderful. Cut a slice off the top and bottom of an orange or lime (so it sits flat) and cut a circle in the flesh just big enough to hold a nightlight snugly. When lit, a group of these looks very festive.
Colourful scented wreaths can be made using fruits and vegetables. Thread dried red chillies onto medium gauge wire and bend into a circle; twist the ends of the wire and top with ribbon. Bay leaves, cranberries and dried orange slices also look good threaded onto medium gauge wire and finished off with a brightly coloured bow.
I add bundles of cinnamon sticks and vanilla pods tied with red ribbon. Cinnamon sticks don't have much scent, so I brush them with a little cinnamon oil. Don't use these in cooking though! Dry thinly sliced oranges on baking trays lined with non-stick baking paper in the oven on the lowest setting for several hours until hard.
If you'd like to try a quicker, more contemporary-looking wreath, why not try our guide to making a cookie-cutter wreath. All you'll need are around 20 cookie cutters in festive shapes, some clear string and a ribbon. Hang as a decoration, or use as an ingenious way to present cookie cutters as a gift for a baker.
If you fancy an edible decoration, golden 'Chinese lanterns' look lovely tied on the tree. Fold back the papery leaves of physalis to reveal the fruit. Melt 110g sugar in a pan with 2 tablespoons water and boil for 2-3 minutes, then remove from the heat. Carefully dip the fruit into the caramel and place on a cold surface to set, but don't chill. The contrast of the crunchy caramel and juicy berries is delicious. Burnished lychees are edible too: lightly brush the inedible skin with gold powder and hang on the Christmas tree.
For some festive arts and crafts that the kids can get stuck into, follow our guide to making a homemade Advent calendar. Let them decorate their own using a muffin tin, some card, and as many pens, paints or glitter glues as they can get their hands on. Fill each hole with a small treat of your choice and you're ready to hang them up.
Last but not least, don't forget your Christmas cake! You don't have to be a whizz with a piping bag - try our guide to making Christmas cake bauble bunting. Make our Suits-all Christmas cake, then ice with jam, marzipan and fondant icing (follow up to step 2 of our Classic iced holly cake). Experiment with different coloured straws, string and baubles to create a showstopping cake topper.