Every year I pick a Christmas decorating theme drawing inspiration from everyday items or materials from the garden. For instance, in 2010 I went all orange and chartreuse using tons of clementines and this year old fashioned tin ornaments will be my guide. One of my favorite muses was a magnolia leaf. The glossy green top and velvety brown underside sparked the idea to decorate in chocolate browns, white and silver.
How do you decorate for the holidays? Do you stick with a time honored theme or do you change it up every year?
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.
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.
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.
Who doesn’t love a wacky Halloween party? Last Monday I blogged about how I was getting ready for the annual Halloween fest by making floating Jack-o-lanterns. Today I’ll show you pictures from this weekend’s celebration.
These suspended Jack-o-lanterns are a whimsical spin on an old Halloween favorite. I’m making them again this year for the annual Halloween fete at the Garden Home Retreat. I like to hang them from the arbors attached to the art studio and summer kitchen. Glowing in the darkness they appear to be hovering above the guests.
Making a floating Jack-o-lantern is easy. Here is a photo journal of the steps. Click here for complete instructions.
Wishing everyone a safe and happy Father’s Day. Here’s a picture of my dad as a youngster.