Simple Gifts from the Garden

I’m excited to guest host #GardenChat tonight. It’s a weekly Twitter based “party” where gardeners from across the country get together to talk about gardening and whatever else is on our minds. It’s a great way to make friends and learn something you might not know about the garden.If you want to join me on #GardenChat it starts at 9 p.m. EST. Click here for the what fors and how tos.

#GardenChat is how I met Bren who coordinates the event and writes the blog BGGarden. She has contributed this week’s guest post. Everyone give her a big welcome to my blog!

If you are like many Americans, you will be watching A Charlie Brown Christmas during your Thanksgiving evening turkey sandwich snack.  What would the holidays be without a glimpse of the past when having a puny little tree reflected the true meaning behind Christmas?  This classic cartoon captures wonderful morals filled with the basic principle of making the most of what you have.  When I think simple, I can’t help but think of using items that make up my garden each year.


A wonderful tradition enjoyed by my family is to use treasures from the garden on our Christmas tree: Simple projects that include the children, like drying blooms from our favorite hydrangea shrub; Preserving memories while teaching the children that gardening is more then just enjoyment in the summer months but something that can be carried on into the next growing season. Drying hydrangeas for the Christmas tree is super easy if you remember that you will get the best results by cutting 12″ stems during the months of August through October.  Cutting fresh, recently opened blooms does not dry well in the open air.  Letting the blooms hang in a dry area for a few weeks teaches the children patience and that good things come to those who wait.   Basic craft projects like this will yield the benefits of expressing your creativity without spending a lot of money.


Think beyond what you’ve grown and preserved by using clean hand tools and miniature birdhouses in the decorating.   Pulling items you use in the garden make a wonderful natural garden theme on a low budget.  I can’t explain the visual sensation experienced when seeing my favorite vacant birdhouse with the Christmas lights sparkling around it.  You can also use burlap that is commonly used to wrap young shrubs in the garden as a tree skirt to complete the garden themed tree.


It seems that the true significance of the holidays has been lost in our society, having been cluttered by the average person’s busy schedule.   If time is budgeted, you can save money while attaching new memories to this time of year by making use of what you have – from the garden.


Happy Thanksgiving

As a child, I remember Thanksgiving meals at my grandparents’ house. My brothers, sister, cousins, and I would play outside all morning and eat peanuts we roasted over the old wood burning stove. My grandfather grew peanuts so there was always plenty to keep us going until lunch.

Red cheeked and hungry, we would run into a house full of mouth watering aromas. After washing up, we would all gather around for the meal – we small ones at the kids’ table on the back porch and the adults in the dining room.  Before dining in we would stand in a circle holding hands around the “big” table and my grandfather would say the blessing.  All the wonderful dishes made it hard to sit through the prayer, but as I grew older I learned to listen to what he was saying and now, as an adult, I hear his words  echoed around my own Thanksgiving table. That’s what this celebration is all about, being thankful for the blessings of the year and rejoicing in the bounty of the harvest.

Many members of my family are gone now, but their memories are very much alive and with us on Thanksgiving. Every year I dig out my grandmother’s recipe for corn bread dressing and my sister always makes mother’s cranberry relish. My young nieces and nephews have taken the place of my brothers, sister and cousins around the kids’ table and we’re passing on to them this very American tradition that each family has made into their own.

This recipe is included in my cookbook. Click on the book image to learn more.Josephine Foster’s Cornbread Dressing

2 tablespoons bacon drippings

1 ½ cups yellow cornmeal
½ cup all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1 egg, beaten
2 cups buttermilk

1 (6 to 7 pound) roasting chicken
8 tablespoons butter
3 to 4 celery rind, including leaves, chapped
1 medium onion, chopped
5 green onions, white and green parts, chopped
12 slices day-old white bread, crumbled
1 cup half-and-half or evaporated milk
2 eggs, beaten
1 ½ teaspoons salt
1 level tablespoon rubbed sage
1 ½ teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

First, prepare the cornbread batter: Combine the cornmeal, flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a large bowl. Add the egg and buttermilk, stirring well to combine.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Add bacon drippings to a well-seasoned 10-inch cast-iron skillet and place in the oven for 4 minutes, or until it is hot.

Remove the hot skillet from the oven, and spoon the batter into the sizzling bacon drippings. Return the skillet to the oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes, or until the cornbread is lightly browned. Remove the skillet from the oven and turn the cornbread out onto a wire rack to cool.

Remove the giblets from the cavity of the chicken (reserve them if you’ll be making gravy). Thoroughly rinse the chicken inside and out. Place it in a stockpot, and cover it with cold water by about 2 inches.  Bring the water to a boil. Then reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer for 1 to 1 ½ hours, or until the chicken is cooked through and tender. Remove the chicken and set aside while preparing the dressing. Reserve the broth.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly butter a 13 x 9-inch baking pan, and set it aside.

Crumble the cooled cornbread into a large bowl. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add the celery, onions, and green onions, and cook until they are tender, 7 to 10 minutes. Then add the mixture to the bowl containing the cornbread. Also add the crumbled white bread, 2 ½ to 3 cups of the reserved chicken broth, the half-and-half, beaten eggs, salt, sage, and black pepper. Mix everything well to combine.  Taste for seasoning. Spoon the dressing mixture into the baking dish. Place the chicken on top of the dressing – either whole or cut in pieces. Return the baking dish to the oven and bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the chicken is brown on top and the dressing bubbly around the edges. Remove from the oven and serve immediately.

Interior Design Tips from the Ancient Greeks

The cottage at the Garden Home Retreat is based on the popular Greek Revival movement of the 19th century. Today we’re seeing a resurgence of the Greek Key pattern. Designer Tobi Fairley gives us a run down on Greek Revival and the Greek Key pattern.

Hello again readers of Allen’s Blog! It’s great to be back and today I thought we’d take a look at a little Greek Revival Style.

For centuries, architects and designers have been reinterpreting the wonderful architecture left to us by the ancient Greeks. Take a look around and you’ll see that so much of what surrounds us today was inspired by them.

Allen’s house at Moss Mountain Farm is a wonderful example. Although new, it typifies many of the Greek Revival design elements that swept the country in the 19th century.

Farmhouses across America had picturesque porches supported by columns. Don’t you just love this house?!?!?

Step inside Allen’s home and we find even more Greek Revival inspiration. The gorgeous trimwork inside the parlor around the doors and windows are hallmarks of the style.

Have I mentioned I love the Greek Key pattern? So much so I used it in my new line of fabrics.
Seen here in one of the octagon outbuildings at Moss Mountain Farm, my Athens fabric is a modern interpretation of the classis Greek Key motif.

My new Acropolis Collection of pillows from Tobi Fairley Home are a modern spin on classic Greek design elements.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this quick glimpse at Greek Revival Style. I’ll be back next month with more design inspiration!



We’re Building Great Things!

I am absolutely thrilled to share with you some big news in our world. As you may know, on Friday, Google announced a massive, global effort to produce thousands of hours of exclusive premium content on YouTube.

What you probably haven’t heard yet is that I will be part of the 100+ channels joining the YouTube channel expansion! Beginning later this month, you can find me at the new eHow Home channel. We are excited to join the ranks of some of the world’s top content producers, including the Wall Street Journal, Thomson Reuters, Hearst Magazines and celebrities such as Madonna, Ashton Kutcher, Lance Armstrong and Shaquille O’Neal.

Our new eHow Home YouTube channel will focus largely on a new house and garden that I am building at Moss Mountain Farm, home to the taping of both our PBS and syndicated shows. The home will be small and affordable and designed in the vernacular style typical of the 1830s. While traditional in style, it will be built with sustainable building methods, technologies,  products, and with energy conservation in mind.

Aside from the sheer joy it’s going to be to begin building a new home on the farm, there’s also the thrill of being part of making history. Google has a bold, aggressive vision to build the future of media, and we are honored to be joining the best in content providers to make it happen. We’re ready for the challenge and to bring our experience, knowledge and passion of home and garden to viewers around the world.

Our partner on this new venture is the very seasoned Demand Media (NYSE: DMD), based in Santa Monica, Calif., a company ranked among YouTube’s most visited sites. Demand Media will oversee the eHow Home channel, and our team will be providing all the content, which will be filmed in Arkansas, with the majority of filming taking place at Moss Mountain Farm.

For a full list of the new YouTube channels, click here.

To read the full news release with all the details, click here.

To see a sneak peek video and subscribe to the eHow Home Channel, click here.

We hope you’ll check us out on YouTube and get the inside scoop on building a green home (inside and out) from the ground up, not to mention all sorts of other great tips and projects to unify your home and garden. See you on YouTube!