CELEBRATING THE SEASON OF ADVENT Advent actually started last Sunday and will continue through Christmas Day. You can celebrate this beautiful season by creating an unusual Advent wreath made form honeysuckle vines, blueberry thorns and dogwood or nandena red berries. Be careful gathering blackberry vines because you could be pricked with thorns. A wreath made of these materials depicts the life of Jesus. The green vines of the honeysuckle reminds of everlasting, eternal Son of God who came to Earth to show us mercy, love and grace. The blackberry thorns placed around the wreath remind us of his suffering on the cross. The red berries scattered on the wreath point to his blood that was shed for us. The one large white candle in the middle of the wreath is the candle of Christ. The fur white candles around the wreath are Love, Hope, Joy and Peace. These candles are lit each Sunday before Christmas. On Christmas Day, all of the candles are lit.
THE CHRISTMAS CACTUS IS BLOOMING They are spending the winter in the sunny living room, responding to their winter environment by producing blooms of red, hot pink and orange. All four of them are putting on a colorful exhibition.
THE PANDA FERN AT CHRISTMAS TIME The huge panda fern also spends winter in the living room and is decorated with tiny ribbons and ornaments for festive décor. This fern grows well in the living room and performs well all summer long on the outside deck. The long runners produce more fern and make a taller plant. They can also be trimmed back and shaped up anytime during the year.
LOOKING FOR THAT NATURAL CHRISTMAS ORNAMENT The leaves have fallen from most trees, except the stubborn oaks, and this makes it possible to find the perfectly shaped bird nest for a natural tree ornament. Find a nest, preferably a robin’s nest, that is made of mostly grass, straw and weed that will hold its shape and form. Before placing it on the tree, apply a coat of varnish or polyurethane spray to preserve the nest and hold it together. You can place a small bird ornament or some plastic eggs for a special touch.
SEARCHING FOR NATURE”S DECORATIONS The woods are full of decorations for your mantel, windows and home. You can look for cedar limbs, short leaf pine branches, dogwood berries, nandena berries, honeysuckle vines, holly, mistletoe. If you are ready to search for it, if you search deep in the woods, you may find some running cedar, which is now getting harder to find as woodlands get scarcer. Another way to obtain natural greenery is to visit the Christmas tree lot and get some spruce branches cut from trees. Remember to pay these hard-working people who labor in wet, cold and working long hours this time of year.
PUTTING TOGETHER AN OLD FASHIONED CHRISTMAS My mother and Grandma always took the time to make those unforgettable Christmas decorations that set the house apart and made it unusual at Christmas. Trees were fresh cut, not put up until the week before Christmas because they would quickly dry out. Maybe this is why they would use alternate decorations that would make up for the tree. They would decorate a window table with a sugarplum tree made from the thorny limbs of a wild plum tree and would decorate it with spicy gum drops and adorn it with strings of popcorn ropes. Underneath the spice gum tree would be a layer of snowy cotton and a few hedge clippings. Holly with red berries would last for almost a month and long-leaf pine was used on tables and other areas. Santas were made with red paint, cotton swabs, and cardboard. Christmas became a pleasant memory because they used what they had to make it an unforgettable experience.
THE COLD CRISP AIR IN THE GARDEN PLOT The garden plot in early December is still very much alive and still green as well as productive. The broccoli is still producing a harvest and the collards are still tough and heading up. Turnips are still under the ground and being harvested. There are still plenty of onions and cabbage are heading up. Mustard and Kale are highlighted in Christmas green. Unless we have a severe hard freeze, they will be here for quite a while longer.
CHRISTMAS TREES ARE SPRINGING UP EVERYWHERE Christmas tree lots are all around the Piedmont and we lone the sights, sounds and smells that accompany them, because they speak of Christmas in a special way. Take your children and grandchildren out to be a part of the Christmas tree experience. When you select a tree, pick a tree that feels, looks fresh; bend the limbs to see if they spring back; bounce the tree to see if any needles fall; if they do, don’t buy the tree; make sure the tree is evenly full and has no bare or empty spots; buy a tree a couple of days before you put it up and ask them to cut a few inches from the bottom of the tree; place the bottom of the tree in a tub of water for a few days; place the tree in a support stand that allows you to water the tree; a healthy tree will last for thirty days. Always remember to never leave tree lights on when you leave the house.
DECEMBER ALMANAC The moon reaches it’s last quarter on Thursday, December 3, 2015. The first day of Chanukah begins Monday, December 7, 2015. Pearl Harbor is remembered on December 7, 2015. There will be a new moon on Friday, December 11, 2015. Wright Brother’s Day is Thursday, December 11, 2015. The moon reaches it’s first quarter on Friday, December 18,2015. Winter begins on Monday, December 21, 2015. Christmas Eve is Thursday, December 24, 2015. The full moon of December occurs on Christmas night and is rightfully called the “Full Cold Moon”, maybe it will be a white Christmas with the cold moon glistening on the new-fallen snow! New Year’s Eve will be celebrated on Thursday, December 31, 2015.
A CHRISTMAS COCONUT CARAMEL PIE This recipe will make two pies. You can use two baked pie crusts or two graham cracker crusts. Other ingredients are: 3/4 stick margarine, (1) 31/2 ounce can of flaked coconut, one cup of chopped pecans, eight ounce package or cream cheese (softened), a fourteen ounce can of Eagle Band condensed milk, 1 sixteen ounce container of cool whip, one twelve ounce jar of Smuckers caramel ice cream topping.For the filling, melt margarine in a skillet, add coconut and chopped pecans. Cook, while watching carefully, until mix is slightly browned. Sit the mixture aside. In a mixing bowl, combine condensed milk and cream cheese and beat well. Fold in the cool whip. to assemble the pies, place 1/4 pecan-coconut filling in each pie. Drizzle 1/4 of the caramel topping on top of the filling. Add 1/4 of the cool whip, cream cheese, milk topping to each pie and sprinkle the caramel topping. repeat this again on both pies with the top covered over the milk topping and caramel topping. Decorate with red and green marachino cherries. Freeze the pies and they can be served slightly frozen or thawed completely. Refrigerate remaining pie.
MAKING A GREAT CHRISTMAS FRUITCAKE The ingredients for this recipe: one cup golden raisins, 1 1/2 cup candied pineapple, one half cup candied red cherries, one cup dark raisins, 3/4 cup of chopped beans, two cups of plain flower, 1/4 teaspoon of salt, one tablespoon of lemon extract, one tablespoon of rum flavoring, 1 1/4 cups of sugar, 2 1/2 sticks of margarine, 3/4 teaspoon baking powder, one table spoon vanilla extract. Mix fruits, nuts, raisins in a half cup of flour and set aside. Cream together margarine and sugar until light and fluffy; add eggs, flour, baking powder, salt, vanilla, lemon and rum flavorings; beat well; add floured fruits, raising and nuts and mix well. Preheat oven to 325 degrees (F). Cut a piece of foil to fit the bottom of the pan, spray the bottom of the pan with Baker’s Joy, add foil and spray the foil, tube and side of the pan with Baker’s Joy. Pour fruitcake mixture into tube pan and bake for ninety minutes, or until a toothpick is inserted and comes out clean. While cake is cooking, place a pan of water in the bottom of the oven. Cool the cake to fifteen minutes before removing the pan. garnish with red and green cherries and pineapple chunks. Cover with foil or saran wrap or store in a fruitcake bin. This cake will probably weigh six pounds or more.
Ray Baird has been providing gardening tips to the community for years and can be reached at 336-969-9350 or at B.Sylvia1946@windstream.net.