Thursday, December 27, 2012

Well, I'm Finally Done Baking for a While...


Well, the Christmas rush has passed and I can finally slow down on my baking. I’m just loving my new mixer and I hope this cooking stuff is something I will continue and it’s not just a phase I’m going thru. I tend to do that a lot. This was my last baking project until February. The snowflakes above were for a cake I made to take home to my family on the day we did our Christmas meal.

 I don’t know how many of you saw the Christmas issue of Southern Living, but it had the most beautiful cake on the cover! So I decided to put my limited skills to work and try to make the cake. It took me four nights after work to get everything ready for this thing.


I cut fondant snowflakes and dusted them with glitter… Lined the base with candy pearls….

De-seeded two pints of raspberry filling to go between the layers…

The white layers are flavored with the best vanilla I could find and I made my first buttercream icing. It’s not quiiiiiiite as pretty as the Southern Living one, but I think it came out pretty good for an amateur. It was definitely a learning experience. And, it tasted good too!

Thursday, December 20, 2012

**IMPORTANT** Challenge! :-)

Pound Cake 

I’ve been busy as a one legged man in a butt kicking contest this past two weeks! I’ve baked hundreds of cookies made countless amounts of candy and I’m now I’m baking cakes. Whew! My back has been giving me fits too. Who would have ever thought baking was harder work than gardening?! I’m most likely not doing another post until after New Year’s Day. That being said I wanted to tell you something.

 I sincerely, from the bottom of my heart, hope you all have a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. These are the special times that we will remember for the rest of our lives. It is a time to be spent with family and friends in good cheer with happy spirits. Never let the chance go by to tell the ones you love just how much you care about them and how special they are to you. None of us are promised tomorrow, so tell them today. I think we sometimes assume they just “know it.” I’m suggesting you to tell them. So here is my challenge to you. I want you to call 5 people every day from now until Christmas morning to tell them you love them. Tell them, you called for no other reason than to tell them you love them, they are special to you and you just felt the desire to let them know! I further ask that you tell your other blogging friends that don’t come to my site to do the same thing. And please do not feel you have to link back to my blog when you do it. This is all about making a small but major difference in five people’s lives you know each day. Blogging is a powerful way to communicate with a lot of people all over the place. Let us see just how much love we can spread between now and Christmas!

Will you join me? Merry Christmas everyone!

Monday, December 10, 2012

What a Mess...


For over a week now I’ve been itching to get out in the garden and get some cleaning done. It was just an absolute disaster with all the leaves that have fallen. I knew if I didn’t get them up this weekend it was only going to get worse. Just look at this mess!


I did manage to get a few of them raked up in the dark Friday night…


Almost seven hours later things are looking a lot better. After raking all the leaves up I had to shred them, there were just too many. I started bagging them to save them for mulch, but it just became more work than I wanted to deal with for now. Normally I would just spread them back in the beds, unfortunately there is just still too much clean up to do in them at this point. Not to mention the beds are full of leaves as well and I’ve always heard it’s not good to just leave the whole leafs laying there. It makes a tight mat of them over the winter and they don’t decompose as well. I’ll clean up the beds in a couple of weeks and rake again and I will still have plenty of leaves for mulch. I have 19 understory trees planted in the garden and a Curly Willow and they are starting to get some good size on them. Throw in the trees from the neighbors and it is a lot of leaves. I just couldn’t wait any longer I had to do something.





While I was walking around and cleaning up I couldn’t help but notice there were a fair amount of blooms. Even if they are tattered and weathered they're still present. Here’s my Grandmothers camellia I planted only as a little 6 inch cutting.


The roses are still hanging on…





Italian Jasmine is still blooming…


The last of the coneflowers are fading among the wire ring that helps supports them when they are in full bloom…


Mid December and there is still plenty of interest in the garden…




The Lions stand sentinel at the entrance of the garden wall…


I’m going to do some work on this area, but I’m undecided at the minute just what it is. I have a few ideas. The grass just refuses to grow lately and it looks unattractive to me.


The next project is clean up all the beds and gets the feeders ready for the birds. I didn’t get a single Goldfinch last year. I hope this year is not a repeat of the same.


Thursday, December 6, 2012

Holiday Cacti

Oh, how I do love a beautiful Christmas cactus. I bet there is not a single one of us that doesn’t remember some elderly woman from our childhood that had a massive plant full of gorgeous blooms in December. Nothing brings color to your home the way these stunning flowers do.


This fuchsia color is the one that's so familiar to me. It’s the one reminiscent of the plant at Mrs. Parker’s house. She was a neighbor two houses down that inspired my love of gardening. We shared the same last name, but were not related.


The cacti come in so many incredible colors now. You can find them in red, pink, fuchsia, white, orange and salmon like the color of the one below. They’re even in bi-colors now. Amazing how we can progress over the years.


There is only one problem with my lovely Christmas Cacti, neither one of them is a Christmas cactus. They’re all Thanksgiving cacti. If you asked me about this two days ago I would have had no clue, but now I can tell the difference from the shape of the leaves. You can see in the photo below my cactus has pinnacle-like protrusions at various points along the leaf segments. This is a characteristic of the Thanksgiving cactus. Very often this time of year they are sold in stores and even some nurseries as a Christmas cactus.


I thought for this post I would teach you how to recognize the difference between Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter Cacti. No, it’s not your Christmas cactus blooming at the wrong time of the year. That’s what I’ve believed all of my life. There are three different types. Since I only have the Thanksgiving cactus, I made an attempt at drawing you some pictures. Hopefully they are good enough that you can tell the distinct difference between the leaf patterns.

Let’s start with the Thanksgiving Cactus or Schlumbergera truncata. I could care less about the Latin names of plants, but I know it’s important to a lot of readers so I’m going to include them in the description. But then again, if you know the Latin names you already know that there are three different holiday cacti and this post is useless to you. Anyway, I digress… The Thanksgiving cactus can be easily recognized by the little points along the stem segments. Neither of the other two have this distinctive trait. This plant blooms a full month before the Christmas cactus and can also bloom a second time between March and May. The branches have a more upright pattern and so do the flowers. It’s as if they are saying look at me! They’re available in a number of colors.


This second illustration is the Christmas cactus a.k.a. Schlumbergera x buckleyi. The leaf is elongated and has no points along the edges. The stem segments have wide, scalloped edges and both they and the flowers hang like pendulums. The blooms are magenta in color and are the ones most of us remember from Christmases past. (Yes, I know my bloom isn't magenta, but I only have so many colored pencils.) These are very long living plants and could even be passed from one generation to the next if given appropriate care. You won’t find these in stores very often because they don’t bloom quick enough to capture everyone’s attention in the early shopping and decorating rush. Most times you acquire this plant from friends and relatives. I’ll be looking for one now! BTW, it also blooms twice a year at a slightly later time than the Thanksgiving one.


The third drawing is of the Easter cactus or Rhipsalidopsis gaertneri. This cactus has more of an oval shape to the leaves with multiple, small scallops around the edge. It also has soft bristles that grow from the end of the leaves and at the base of each segment. The stem segments are also a lighter green in color and not shiny like the other two. The flowers are a completely different shape from the Christmas and Thanksgiving cactus. In addition, they come in a variety of colors and may have multiple blooms on one leaf. When in bloom they put on quite a show, but this only happens once a year (in April) about Easter. These plants are more difficult to grow and can have a terrible habit of shedding their stem segments.


Okay, great. Now we know the difference, so how are we going to remember it when we get in the stores? This is how I’m going to do it. Look at the picture while you read this, it may help. The Thanksgiving cactus has teeth on the leaves. We use our teeth a LOT when we eat at thanksgiving. The Christmas cactus has scallops on the leaves that are large and round just like Santa Claus. The Easter cactus has leaves shaped similar to an egg and whiskers like a rabbit. That’s how I’m going to remember it. All of these plants will really thrive and not suffer from bud drop if kept outside in a shaded place from spring through fall. They love the fresh air and dappled sunlight. Hope you learned something. :0) I know I did.


Sunday, December 2, 2012

My Apologies


This weekend I was contacted by a reader that was nice enough to drop me a line through my email address and inform me she was unable to post a comment on my blog. Thank you Ms. Barbara! It would seem this entire time my comments have been set so that only people who use blogger could comment. This was never my intentions, I’ve always set my blog so anyone could comment. I believe the problem is now fixed and if any of you have further issues, please contact me and let me know. As you are all aware, feedback is one of the most enjoyable things about blogging. Hope this finds you all having a wonderful day!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Feeling a Little Like Christmas...

Every year when I drag my Christmas tree out of the attic and remove it from the box I chuckle to myself (and sometimes out loud) and wonder how many more years it can last. My tree is a second hand, second hand tree. It was made somewhere around the year 1955. It originally belonged to my father’s aunt. She decided to get a new tree so she gave it to my parents at some point when I was a child. We had always gone to the woods and cut down a cedar tree every year, two weeks before Christmas. I remember not being very receptive to the idea of a fake tree in the beginning. I never liked change much as a kid, though I’ve learned to welcome it as an adult. My mother kept the tree until about five or six years ago at which point she decided the throw it in the trash and get a new one. It’s been mine since that day and I cherish the little transformation it makes every year.


I lovingly refer to it as my "Charlie Brown Christmas tree" because every year I put it up; it drops more needles than a real one. My friend Will says, "All you need to do is put a little blue blanket around the base." It reminds me of a fish skeleton when I first assemble it. We’ll leave it to stretch its branches for a minute or two and take a look at the rest of the house.


This is a new addition to my Christmas decorations this year. It’s a flea market treasure. When I saw it I thought it would be perfect for my dining table. The height is going to wonderfully spread the candle light when I have company over for dinner during December. I have guests coming this weekend, so as it grows closer I’ll snip some greenery and Nandina berries to put in and around the stand at the base.



When I rescued the tree from the trash heap, I also took several boxes of ornaments that were on their way out. The little colored glass globes were really no longer suitable for the tree because they were faded and the insides have begun to peel. I think it just gives them character and speaks of the fact they have been adored for many years. They were still in the original Elmore’s Five and Dime store boxes. I remember my uncle giving me a dime to shop in there when we made our Saturday morning trip to town over 40 years ago. A dime! Wow... where has the time gone...


I filled two crystal vases with gold and silver ones. I also have a huge glass fish that sits on top of the china cabinet my grandmother built filled with pink ones. It was too dark in the house to get a decent picture of it. Where it sits there is very little light and if I used the flash it just washed out all the color anyway.


I like to decorate the house with a gold and clear glass theme for Christmas. I never have been one to like bright colors in my home. It’s really kind of strange since I absolutely love a kaleidoscope of colors in the garden. I also prefer to use Father Christmas instead of Santa Clause. This is the first one I was given almost 20 years ago. I also have three others in addition to this one.


You can’t see them very well, but in this bowl are the last of my mother’s decoration she bought in 1956. There are so many different shapes and sizes in this little bowl. The designs remind me of the big chrome bumpers on cars from that time period.


This little tin gold star was on top of our tree for many, many years. It was eventually replaced with a fancy one that would light up and twinkle like the rest of the Christmas lights. You know, the most valuable things I have in my home actually have no monetary worth. This star is one of them…


The garland is hung above the door that enters the piano room...


I also draped it around the top of the piano. I’ve been given many ornaments as gifts from friends over the years and I hang them here. Also on the piano are two of my reindeer, another item I sort of collect like Father Christmas.


I didn’t realize until this year that none of my deer have faces. They have no eyes, noses or recognizable facial feature. This was completely by accident. I was once told if you buy things you like, you will unconsciously develop your own personal style. Because all the items you like will have a similar characteristics whether it is immediately visible to you or not. Even if it appears extremely eclectic it will all blend together nicely.




See what a little TLC can do to a Charlie Brown Christmas tree? Amazing what a little love and determination can do. Isn’t it?


That’s enough of my mindless chatter for one post. :0) Hope this finds you filling with the Christmas spirit and giddy with anticipation of its arrival!