Fruitcakes and Christmas decorations

Ray Baird

A GOOD FRUITCAKE EXPERIENCE? The reason many people do not like Fruitcake is because they’ve had a bed experience. Just because they are named “fruitcake” doesn’t mean they have very much fruit in them. Some co-called fruitcakes are not s mix of fruit but a concoction of citron orange, lemon and grapefruit fried peelings and a little of no fruit except a few raisins. These are the very ingredients that constitute a bad fruitcake experience. In purchasing a good fruitcake, remember that you always get what you pay for. Good fruitcakes cost more because they have the real thing including plenty of dried fruit , such as currents, raisins ( the moist, gold kind) plenty of eggs, milk and cake flour with dark brown or light brown sugar, as well as candied red or green cherries and pineapple chunks, with real rum and brandy flavorings slow baked for several hours in a low temp oven. My grandma in Northampton County asked her cakes in a 195 degree oven for several hours with a pan of water in the bottom rack off the oven. She would bake it ten days before Christmas and dabble it with brandy every day. She would place an apple in the hole if the cake and replace it every other day. Her cake was moist, sticky, and a REAL fruitcake experience. She used what all fruitcakes need- fresh pecans and walnuts. The very best of store bought fruitcakes are Claxton light and Benson’s dark. Jane Parker is good, but is too dry. A secret of my grandma’s fruitcake was that she kept it wrapped in butcher paper and stored it in a tin. I don’t know if my mind plays games on me, but I think round fruitcakes are better then square ones. I like the mail order fruitcakes because you know the list of ingredients they contain.

A PARADE OF OLD FASHIONED CHRISTMAS TREATS THAT ARE STILL PART OF CHRISTMAS TODAY Who can forget the taste of the old fashioned dark chocolate drop, not too sweet, not too bitter and dark-just right! We especially like them because, even today, you only see them at Christmas, much like the hard candy mix that is sold from boxes and buckets during Christmas. Other special sweets in the Christmas parade include circus peanuts, peppermint sticks, bit-o-honeys, Hershey miniatures and kisses, coconut bon-bons, ribbon coconut bars, macaroons, chocolate covered cherries, chocolate covered raisins and peanuts. Most of these varieties have been going strong for well over a hundred years and are still popular enough to be in many stores today.

LONG LIVE THE LED CHRISTMAS LIGHTS They are very bright, they are very long-lasting, they look great on the tree on they daytime with their sugarplum look, they look good at night with their many colors, including purple and brilliant blue. Their biggest plus in their extra-long life and their size. What a great replacement for those tiny mini-lights that shorted out every Christmas.

THE 2016 SEED CATALOGS ARE NOW ARRIVING A new seed catalog arrives every day and they are welcome, but they will have to be put on the back burner until after Christmas. We want to allow ourselves plenty of time to see what is new in the coming season. In checking out seed from catalogs, always remember to never buy seeds that you can buy locally because you always have to pay for shipping and handling.

THE LONGEST NIGHT OF THE YEAR For adults, the longest night of the year will be Monday, December 21, 2015. but for kids, the longest night will be Thursday, December 24, 2015 which is Christmas eve. All the excitement of the next day will certainly keep them from getting a full night’s sleep.

BIRDS ADD LIFE AND COLOR TO CHRISTMAS LANDSCAPE The birds of winter add color and life to winter landscapes as cardinals flock to the feeders to ass some Christmas red to the scene. The blue jays also added their color, as well as chickadees and junkos along with sparrows. Make your lawn a welcome haven for birds by keeping feeders and birdbaths filled. Empty ice from the bath and fill with fresh water everyday.

KEEP INSIDE WINTER PLANTS WATERED EVERY WEEK The African violets, panda fern, snake plats, aloes and the Christmas cactus wintering over in the living room or den need a drink of water once a week and a shot of liquid fertilizer to thrive all winter.

THE PERENNIALS OF WINTER All our perennials on the deck look good and surviving the cold of winter. If the soil in their containers stays frozen for a few days, they may need to be covered with a towel. Most perennials will withstand a hard freezes as long as they just last for a night or two at a time. Most containers are pretty deep so the freeze usually just affects the top layer.

WILL YOUR CHRISTMAS BE WHITE? Maybe so, but most likely, maybe not unless you will be traveling to the Midwest. Snow in Carolina is a possibility and we usually get one every five years. A snow would be a welcome surprise and work wanders in the garden plot.

THE FIRST DAY PF WINTER This event will occur next Monday. There are sill some days left before hard freezes take place and these weather breaking days pave the way to finishing the harvesting leaves, clearing up the garden plot and wrapping up the growing season.

A SPECIAL DIP FOR CHRISTMAS PARTIES Nothing goes as good with “scoops’ or tortilla chips like a good colorful dip, especially at a Christmas gathering. Try this simple dip at your get-together. All you need to do is mix one packet of Hidden Valley original ranch dip mix, one ten ounce box of spinach thawed and well drained and chopped fine, or run though the blender in “chop” mode, one three ounce jar of dried pimentos (drained), run these through the blender in “chop’ mode also, one sixteen ounce container of sour cream and three ounces of cream cheese. Mix all ingredients together and add a few drops of water if mix is too thick. Chill for half an hour before serving. Serve with tortilla “scoops” or on crackers.

WHATEVER HAPPENED TO ANGEL HAIR? We were decorating the Christmas tree a few days ago and remembered one of the favorite adornments on a Christmas trees in the 1960’s was the sun fiberglass concoction called “angel hair”. What a beautiful addition for a tree. The hair gave the tree a “halo” look as the lights glowed through a thin net of the angel hair giving the tree a majestic heavenly glow. We always used this product to add to cotton “snow” on bookcases and the coffee table to make the cotton look like wind-blown snow. In the 1960’s, you could buy angel hair in colors of white, pink and light blue. We remembered having a manger scene in an apartment picture window with a star in the top of it and the blue angel hair added a special glow to that star. This is one simple decorating material we wish would make a Christmas comeback!

GOOD RIDDANCE TO THE TINSEL ICICLES! We miss the angel hair for decorating, but a re glad the icicle are not around. What a mess they made! With the arrival of artificial trees and carpet in the living room, they signaled the end for that tinsel decoration. We dint think they will ever make a comeback!

Ray Baird has been providing gardening tips to the community for years and can be reached at 336-969-9350 or at

Ray Baird

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