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A week or so ago, I did a thing.
“I did a thing” seems to be a low key, no big deal way of announcing something big. So, naturally, you are expecting a huge accomplishment or announcement.
Here it is: I made a dried orange garland. Tada! But, this is a big deal because of how small a deal it is.
The “Dried Orange Garland” is that idea that you pin on Pinterest and save on Instagram or back in the day, rip out of a Martha Stewart magazine AND NEVER TRIED… until this year.
For a week now, every time I walk into the kitchen and see my finished project; I smile for reasons big and small.
So, I’m sharing the project with you in a very intentional, step by step kind of way. And, I want you to go buy the oranges now so we can enjoy this together.
The garland is small enough to bring big impact for you. I believe it.
To get started, you’ll need oranges, a sharp knife (a steak knife will do), a cutting board, parchment paper, a baking sheet, an oven and a spool of thread with a needle.
How many oranges do you need? You could truly just use two or go for as many as 6.
Prepare your space. We need quiet for this project – no playlists or podcasts or carols. Turn the knob on the oven to 200. We’ll need the slow heat just to warm the slices enough until the moisture evaporates. This slow cooking part alone with take several hours.
Now that the oven is heating, grab one or two baking sheets. I found that a sheet holds slices of 3 oranges. Tear off a sheet of parchment for your baking sheet. At such a low and slow pace, juices from the orange turn bubbly and sticky. And the parchment paper is magic about allowing food to come right off the sheet without losing a bit of it.
The fact that we use parchment paper here feels special. I don’t know about you but I don’t use it often and I only use it around the holidays. Holding the box of parchment in my hand signals something special is in the works. This crinkly paper is usually key to a conveyor belt of Christmas cookies – cut outs, thumbprints, gingerbreads. There are no jars of sprinkles no tubes of icing, no tin shapes. Not this time. There is no hurry here. Take a deep breath. Relax your shoulders.
You don’t have to worry about spacing perfectly, this is not a demanding project.
While this isn’t demanding, it is very giving. And that’s why we’re here now talking through a DIY orange garland. I hope this feels like a gift to you. The process, more than the end product, has felt like a gift to me.
The baking sheets are lined with parchment and the oven is warm. It’s time for the oranges.
Slice off the ends to leave as much of the orange as you can. Put the ends aside and let’s begin. This is not a technical how to on your DIY, so all I can say is slice your oranges so they’re thin but not skinny. Makes sense, right? An actual craft person might tell you “slightly less than 1/4 inch thick.”
Are you by light at all? If the sun is coming in anywhere near your countertop, focus on the orange as you slice to catch the zest. That little word comes to life in full meaning. Do you feel the little spritz? Sprinkles of enthusiasm and energy spray as you cut through the deepest orange of the orange. My goodness it smells good. In a season and part of the world where most things are dying off, it feels so strange and defiant to smell the fresh, bright scent of an orange.
Place your slices on the parchment lined sheet and just be careful not to crowd.
Look at them. The gradient of color is beautiful: Deepest orange, bands of white and yellows.
Slide them in the oven. Now set your timer for two hours. That’s when you’ll flip each slice one by one. Then set the timer again for anther two hours. While you wait, go find a spool of thread and a needle.
When was the last time you threaded a needle? Pull the trays out of the oven when the timer sounds. You’ll know the slices are ready when they’re tacky but not crispy and a brownish tinge touches them.
This part will take time. Come in through the back of the slice, just under the rind, then stretch across a teeny bit and poke out through the back again.
For right now, allow the pile to dictate your product. Release the need to arrange according to size and color. Let that go. Just keep picking up an orange, thread it onto your string until you’re done.
As you hang your garland across the window, take in the transformation. The once heavy globes of sweet juice are now circles of citrus stained glass dancing to catch the light. They’ve changed. They’re different. They’re beautiful. You did it.
I feel slower. How about you? I think that’s why I’m sharing this now, this way. If you can put two feet on the ground (sitting or standing) and gather a few oranges to then cook off slowly, if you can hear the crinkle of parchment paper and let it signal the start of something new, if you can catch the zest in the sunlight, if you can linger at the open oven door long enough to allow the warmth to kiss your face – well then you’ve done it. You’ve taken a moment to ground yourself in the midst of the holidays. There’s so much this time of year. Give yourself the gift of slow and quiet, two feet on the ground and a little zest in your heart.
Go buy the oranges.
November skies are full of hellos and goodbyes… Whether geese are leaving your skies or arriving for the winter; I hope this little project greets you with an embrace.