Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Spring's Coming: The Nose Knows

Last time we began a four part series about transitioning the setting of your home from one season to the next, to keep your homecoming interesting as all of your senses perked up when you walk through the door. I reviewed some of the spring treasures to be found in the produce section of your market, and delved into adding some spring flourish of flowers into your kitchen, eating and living areas of your home. Flowers not only enhance our living space visually, if you decorate with fresh cut flowers, they can enhance the room aromatically as well. When you are home, when your spouse comes home at the end of his or her day, or when your invited friends enter your home, you want all of the senses to say "Welcome home! Get comfortable! Feel the love!" Bright seasonal flowers are pleasing to the eye, and the way your home smells can be pleasing to the nose.

We see constant advertisements throughout the media for products to make our homes smell "nice." I actually don't use any of these in my home, they really do pose more hazards than benefits. Aerosol sprays are not only detrimental to the environment, but they are also allergy irritants and can be damaging for pets and for people who suffer from inhalant allergies or asthma. The scents are usually overkill and artificial, way too perfumey for my taste. The plug-in's have been known to cause house fires. Finally, just the thought of infusing more chemicals into our lives doesn't sound so comforting, does it? I prefer to utilize more natural means to produce more comforting and less harsh sensory enjoyment for the nose.

The most welcoming and seasonal aromas in your home from autumn through spring emanate from your kitchen. When you expect company, arrange to feed your oven about thirty minutes prior to your guests' arrival. Whether you are baking a pie or a chocolate cake for a an afternoon coffee visit, or the dessert for the evenings get-together meal, nothing sends such a welcome greeting to your guests as something baking in the oven. They will walk in from the cold, there may be traces of snow still on the ground outside, but inside the sight of spring tulips on the end table and the aromas of a blueberry crumb cake wafting in from the kitchen will immediately wrap their senses in warmth and contentment. Ideal springtime delicacies that your oven will present include blueberry crumb cake, lemon meringue pie, coconut cake, a pound cake to serve with a sprinkling of those fresh spring strawberries or a raspberry cheesecake. You can achieve the same ambiance in the fall and winter months when baking up pumpkin bread, apple pies, pear tarts and cranberry bundt cake. Even when preparing dinner for your family, your spouse who arrives home later than you will really feel the comfort of being home when he or she walks into a house that tantalizes both the nose and the appetite with the aromas of a roasting rack of lamb or orange-glazed ham beckoning from the kitchen.

As the daytime temperatures start to creep up, open as many windows as you are able throughout the house, even if only for three hours a day in the early afternoon. Your home has been sealed off from the outside elements for four months. The springtime ritual of allowing fresh air to circulate through your house every day will air everything out, and crisp fresh air with notes of early spring blooms and new grassy growth, is a comforting aromatic treat in itself; the effect magnified if you are fortunate enough to live by the beach and can add tints of salty sea air to the experience. Why else are there aerosol cans of room freshener sporting labels such as "Fresh Air" and "Ocean Breeze"? No corporation has really been able to successfully duplicate such scents, there is nothing like the real thing.

While I may shun many of the room-freshener products on the market, I do have one vice: scented candles. I do enjoy the calming and welcoming ambiance that a seasonally scented candle can create. The soft glow of the burning flame is soothing and creates a nice lighting effect for visual appeal, and I switch out the scents with the seasons for aromatic appeal. Throughout the winter I like the vanilla cookie varieties, in the summer I go for the citrusy and melon scents. Nothing says fall like a candle of cinnamon spice. Now to welcome spring, I like to seek out lemony scents. Candles can put a subtle layer of aromatic essence into the air, evoking feelings of warmth and comfort. However you should choose unscented candles when using candles for lighting effect at the dining table, as you don't want your nose to be caught in a battle of the scents as the food and the candle compete with one another.

As an avid home cook, a homeowner and a happy homebody, I do declare that the most effective and pleasing way to permeate the aromatic environment of your home with ease is from your kitchen. Through the ages, scents of various products from lip glosses to candles, and even to dolls, are those of edible delights: strawberry, vanilla, lemon, coffee, the list goes on and on, and on. Eating is something we all do, something many of us enjoy. We are comforted by the smell of cinnamon apple pie on a crisp fall day, or by a simmering pot of soup on a blustery day. Even on the smallest scale, for example, most of us would agree that the most welcoming and comforting scent when we first get up in the morning is that of freshly brewing coffee. It says "Good morning! Welcome to your day!" and we all enjoy savoring that aromatic cup of java as the warmth envelopes us in a virtual embrace before we head out the door to fight the day's demons. Next time we'll talk about how visual accents strategically arranged around your home can illustrate a scene of seasonal comfort. Many of the items which can be used are already in the treasure troves of your closets or attic; prepare to make your spring cleaning and sorting work for you to give your home that welcoming look the whole year through.

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