wonderful christmas scent

A Wonderful Christmas Scent Recipe From Betty's Cook Nook

Ahhhh… the holiday smells!

There’s no doubt that my Mom “Betty” loved cloves.

She cooked with cloves and even decorated with them. At the holidays Mom would make orange-clove pomander balls and you guessed it – clove gum was a special treat beyond the usual mint flavored gums.

There’s no better time of year to enjoy the aroma of all that is spice and nice than at holidaytime.

This Wonderful Christmas Scent recipe comes to us from my Cousin Julie’s kitchen. Julie has contributed several recipes to this blog and her cooking advice has helped bridge the gaps in my much younger memory since the loss of my Mom back in the 1980s. Losing Cousin Julie in October (mere weeks ago) has left a huge void in my heart that’s only filled with the love and bountiful memories she gifted those who knew her.

This holiday season I dedicate all of it to Julie’s loving memory! And as you’d expect making this Wonderful Christmas Scent recipe could be no finer way to fill my home with a memorable great scent of the holidays.

I hope you enjoy this recipe – it’s so easy to make and enjoy! And you can gift the ingredients to friends and family as an easy way for them to brighten and heighten their holiday season!

Pomander Ball With Red And Green Ribbon

An example of the holiday pomanders my Mom “Betty” would make at the holidays.

i. ingredients

3 sticks | cinnamon
¼ cup | whole cloves
| bay leaves
½ | orange, halved
½ | lemon, halved
1 quart (4 cups) | water

ii. what to do

It doesn’t get any easier than this, folks!

1. Put everything in a medium-sized pot over low heat.

2. Bring things to a boil then reduce to a simmer. Check the water level periodically to ensure it hasn’t all evaporated. You can tilt a pot lid on top to help release the fragrant mist while helping retain the water.

Enjoy and Happiest Holidays from Betty’s Cook Nook!

~ Patrick

Betty’s Son
Founder and “Nostalgic Food Blogger” of Betty’s Cook Nook

Wonderful Christmas Scent Recipe

Julie’s original Wonderful Christmas Scent recipe was recently given to me by her son, Lorin. I’d peg this to be circa 1980s-ish given the colorful ribbon design.

In the tradition of many of my posts here at Betty’s Cook Nook let’s take a stroll into the past and enjoy some vintage images of gum advertising! I focus on clove gum, since it was one of Mom’s favorites and clove is a key ingredient in this Wonderful Christmas Scent recipe.

Click the circles to view the entire ad:

julie and patrick in starburst frame

Circa 1995: This one’s for us, Cousin!


magic salt crystal garden

magic salt crystal garden recipe from betty's cook nook A Recipe With No Name

Since recently sharing out tips from the gardening section of Mom’s cookbook I’ve realized that you never know where a surprise might be hiding in her treasure chest of recipes. This recipe had no name but reading the instructions peeked my curiosity so I decided to dive in deep and make it.

I didn’t know what “bluing” was but after a few quick online clicks I landed at this site that solved the mystery. We’re gonna make our own magic crystal garden!

Flashback Fun Days

Back in my day, “fun” wouldn’t have cut it by today’s standards. 

My rock tumbler was about as much fun as watching paint dry or what’s even more exciting … watching a real rock sit still. Don’t even get me started about Pet Rocks. My G.I. Joe helicopter was attached to its clunky battery pack with a wire, not bluetooth. #NoRealFun. Board games were pretty much that – boring! There were days when it seemed like sitting and staring at the sun was just as fun, just as Grumpy Old Man would say! Let’s have a laugh:

There were a few truly fun things that broke through the mundane sea of insanity. In walks magical fun with the likes of Sea Monkeys, Ant Farms and the super melty fun of Shrinky Dinks – these were some of my childhood favorites.

I do remember seeing my first crystal garden – it wasn’t mine but it was just as cool.

I read on Mrs. Stewart’s liquid bluing website that making salt gardens became popular during the Great Depression. So much so the creations are often referred to as a depression flower or a coal garden. Good times! Let’s get to crystal gardening!

Mrs. Stewart's Liquid Bluingtips ~

  You’ll want to secure your bluing before making this garden. It was hard to find it here in Austin so I wound up ordering a 3-pack via Amazon … or  you can order it directly from Mrs. Stewart’s website. I’m going to give it a “go” in the laundry as well!

  While Mom’s original recipe calls for brick or clay pot, you can use anything porous including coal, coke (fuel), charcoal, or pieces of sponge. I decided to go the clay pot route and thought I’d try my hand at fashioning a faux cake out of a mini pot and saucer I found. So I didn’t need the sponge cut into 4 pieces noted below, which were used for blotting.

  Do not use metal or tin containers – Do use glass or plastic!

  Do not touch your crystal formation or it will crumble.
magic salt crystal garden recipe from betty's cook nook
i. ingredients

various | pieces of brick, clay pot, or sponge (anything porous)
| sponge, cut into 4 pieces (optional – see tip above)
assorted colors | food coloring
4 tablespoons | bluing
4 tablespoons | ammonia
4 tablespoons | distilled water
4 tablespoons | iodized salt
| glass or plastic bowl – the flatter the easier to enjoy

ii. what to do

Step 1. If you’re using brick, blot it with a sponge to clean it. Otherwise, skip to Step 2.

Step 2. Drop food coloring onto your base – this will create the colors!

Step 3. Mix together the bluing, ammonia and distilled water to make your solution. Pour this solution over your base material. Sprinkle your creation with salt. Mom’s recipe said it would take 6 hours to grow  but I saw results in about 20 minutes.

Step 4. To keep your garden growing you can add a little more ammonia. I read on Mrs. Stewart’s website to add more of the food coloring, solution and salt on Day 3, but experiment and adjust to your preference.

Next time I’m going to use plain ammonia instead of lemon-scented ammonia which is all I could find at HEB. My crystal garden cupcake was a little “flat” side. I’ll make sure and post updated pictures! I hope you enjoy making your own garden as much as I did!

~ Patrick

Betty’s Son
Founder and “Nostalgic Food Blogger” of Betty’s Cook Nook

Magic Salt Crystal Garden Recipe

A scan of Mom’s original recipe for making a crystal garden!


select your yule tree carefully


♫♩♩ It’s Christmastime In The City

My Mom “Betty” had many talents in addition to being a fabulous foodie. She loved crabbing at the Texas Coast, sewing her own clothes (and clothes for us), painting, and gardening.

Mom’s black binder cookbook originated in the 1950s and its first contents were not recipes, but actually gardening tips! I decided to expand this cooking blog of her favorite food picks to include some of the gardening articles that she curated over the years. And what better way to kick us off than with some tips for how to care and feed for the freshest Christmas tree on the block?! Read the 1977 San Antonio Express-News article below for all the details!

Christmas With The Kikers

As soon as the Thanksgiving dishes were clean and safely stored away, all thoughts turned to Christmas. Each year we decorated the house with lighted garlands, hung white lights in our signature front yard mesquite tree, and we found ourselves spending more time sitting by the fire than glued to the television. The kitchen was usually rockin’ the house with wonderful smells. There was ribbon candy, a homemade gingerbread house and if we were lucky, divinity. Also dancing in the air was likely some Bing Crosby or voices singing “The Twelve Days Of Christmas” from a gathering of young and old around our player piano.

Kiker Family Christmas 1976

Kiker Family Christmas 1976

No other holiday time accoutrement could possibly top the Kiker Christmas tree. We usually scouted for the perfect tree at Wolfe Nursery on San Pedro or the Optimist Club’s Christmas tree lot in Alamo Heights. Until the year when Mom and her great friend Joyce both returned from JCPenney with our first artificial Christmas tree ever (gasp!), we had fresh green trees that were perfectly formed, full, and fragrant.

Holiday Streaker

My greatest childhood skill was my ability to run faster than the wind when Mom said dinner was ready. My parents greatest skill? Always having the Polaroid at the ready whenever I was streaking in my favorite leprechaun shoes.

This happened A LOT!

Some years we strung popcorn. In my earlier years our tree was outfitted in tiny multi-colored lights. And as the years advanced we migrated to blue spruce trees adorned with what seemed like hundreds of shiny glass-blown ornaments set among all-white lights. I still have Mom’s green felt tree skirt that was turned into a Christmas tree skirt that she wore when she ice skated as a teenager. Her waist must have been no bigger than 20 inches!

Today I’ve migrated away from live green trees to silver tinsel (shown in the video above). I find it cheaper, faster, and shinier than traditional tree trimming. But I do miss the smell of a fresh tree!

The Main Event

We usually went to Christmas Eve midnight mass at St. Pius – something that was torture for a young kid who crept in and out of consciousness trying to stay awake only to count the seconds until morning would arrive and I could score the presents I “worked” and waited for all year to finally collect! If we were lucky Mom would let us open one present before we went to bed – it was never our grandest gift but something to wet the appetite … and more importantly to keep us (me) quiet.

The next morning I was usually the first one up and I was salivating at the thought of ripping open all the presents I had been counting and coveting for weeks. Usually Mom’s Mom “Nanny” would drive over for “high-time” around 9 or 10 AM when things were in full force. Nanny would often bring her coconut ambrosia fruit salad and Mom would make a meal as grand as Thanksgiving. This was a time for the “good china,” as Mom called it.

Life was plentiful and good.

~ Patrick

Betty’s Son
Founder and “Nostalgic Food Blogger” of Betty’s Cook Nook

Christmastime Tip ~ Why not explore more of the Betty’s Cook Nook Blog by clicking this link. You’ll find more stories and recipes perfect for the happiest of holidays! And check out our old family photos page where you’ll see me sitting on Santa’s lap on one the most frightful days of my life!

A Pic Of Mom's Twelve Days Of Christmas Glasses

A Pic Of Mom’s Twelve Days Of Christmas Glasses

A scan of my Mom Betty's "Christmas tree tips" article

A scan of my Mom Betty’s “Christmas tree tips” article, San Antonio Express-News, December 1977