Oranges, Spanish moss
During one holiday visit, the docent who led my tour group through the house pointed out the natural holiday decorations made of palmetto leaves, dried orange slices and bits of Spanish moss — the kind of decorating Florida settlers would have whipped up in the absence of the holly and evergreen.
Near the doorway, pictures of the Waterhouse family put faces on the names of the folks who were getting ready for a Florida Christmas there more than 100 years ago. Another photo, taken in the house in 1896, showed the family’s son, Charles Waterhouse, resplendent in a handlebar mustache.
At the Waterhouse family celebrations, gift packages were probably wrapped in brown paper and string to wait for Christmas morning, and decorations might include homemade ginger cookies, which I remember festooning the kitchen one year at the Waterhouse while other baked goods waited on the iron stove.
Spicy fragrance, no cans
The homemade decorations and gifts spurred childhood memories of making pomander balls with my mother. These were oranges studded en masse with cloves, rolled in spices and hung from ribbons throughout the house — a time-honored way to add a spicy fragrance long before researchers and American companies worked hard to manufacture good smells and put them in a can.
The directions our family used to make them are still pasted in the black ledger book my mother used to collect recipes in the 1940s and ’50s.
A little online research also turns up plenty of directions for making pomanders from fruit: thin-skinned oranges, lemons, limes or apples.
Basically, you make holes (say, with a small nail or knitting needle) all over the fruit, put whole cloves in the holes, roll the ball in a mixture of powdered cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and orrisroot and dry it.
The orrisroot acts as a fixative. Our old directions say to get it from a drugstore, but a call to Walgreens confirmed years ago that such advice is out of date. A health-food store that sells bulk spices is a better bet, as are online suppliers of herbs and spices.
Some directions for making pomander balls offer a quick alternative to drying the fruit for three to four weeks: Bake it at 300 degrees for about four hours.
Out and about
For more about the Waterhouse Residence Museum, 820 Lake Lily Drive, and the other Maitland Art & History museums, visit Artandhistory.org or call 407-539-2181.
In addition to its regular tours, the Waterhouse museum will also offer Candlelight Tours on Dec. 1, 5 to 8 p.m., to coincide with the city of Maitland’s annual tree lighting.
Holiday history in Sanford: This time of year brims with opportunities to celebrate the holidays historically, including the Sanford Historic Trust’s 30th Holiday Tour of Homes on Dec. 1, 3 to 9 p.m. This year’s self-guided tour will pay tribute to the pioneers who came to Sanford decades ago and began restoring the city’s historic homes. Tickets are $30. Check in first to get wristbands and a tour guidebook at either the Historic Sanford Welcome Center, 230 E. 1st St., or the All Souls Catholic Church, 800 S. Oak Ave., Sanford. For details, visit sanfordhistorictrust.wildapricot.org.