I’m a fan of simple outdoor Thanksgiving decorations. When I’m decorating outside for a holiday and I can’t use living plants because the temperature has dipped too low, I like to use things that are growing around the house or that we’ve gathered on hikes.
A basic combo of clipped sage and pinecones looks so pretty, and I’ll add red ornaments to change it to Christmas decor in a few days time. Assuming of course it’s not buried in a foot of snow (knock wood!)!
Hope you’re ready for Thanksgiving in your household! And if you’re visiting instead of cooking, enjoy, relax, and have a glass of wine for me!
Have you ever been cooking your turkey, basting your little heart out, and you realize you’re not going to have enough drippings left to make your gravy, that most essential liquid component of your Thanksgiving table (well, other than the wine!)? If so, I have the best Thanksgiving gravy tip for you! My mother shared this with me when I told her I could never figure out how she always had such a crazy quantity of fresh gravy when everyone else was stocking up on canned and dumping that into their gravy boats.
So here’s the trick, when you’re prepping your turkey before roasting, take the neck and put it into a saucepan with some celery, onions and a bayleaf and top it up with cold water. Simmer away slowly for a couple hours to make a super simple but very flavorful stock.
When you pull your turkey out of the oven and it’s resting on the side waiting to be carved, now is the time to put all that stock into the pan and deglaze the sides. It’s the perfect gravy extender. Whisk away to get all those little bits and pieces off the sides of the pan and into your gravy. Thicken a bit and when you serve those massive boats of gravy, you’ll be a gravy goddess too!
Happy Thanksgiving all!
Tis’ the season for potting up all the indoor bulbs you’ve ordered. This is the first mini round of of planting I’ve been able to do and they should bloom in time for Christmas. Or at least that’s the plan.
I got a little crazy this year and have a rather large number of amaryllis and paperwhites squirreled away. They’re stored in a cool spot and I’m hoping I can stagger potting over a longer period of time. With any luck the cool air will slow their development and I’ll have flowers blooming in the house all winter, if I’m not quite as lucky the house will look like a florist shop for a crazy couple of weeks…
If you haven’t tried flowering bulbs in the house you really should give it a go. They’re easy and they look beautiful for several weeks before they flower and then you’re rewarded with a beautiful bloom and often fragrance. If you don’t want to order a large quantity, local garden centers usually have small packs of paperweights you can buy or single amaryllis bulbs. They’re even available at big box stores like Home Depot and Target.
Have fun with a bit of indoor gardening!
With the leaves mostly down in the Northeastern United States it’s an easy time to spot wild wintergreen (Gaultheria Procumbens) when you’re out and about. It’s hard to miss with it’s stunning red berries and glossy evergreen leaves, you can find it on the margins of fields and woodlands in the dappled light that it loves. It’s easy to identify, pluck a leaf and crush it in your hand. The fragrance is unmistakable.
Wintergreen is a wild edible and the leaves were used as a tea by the early colonists (apparently it’s excellent, but I must admit I haven’t tried it yet). It’s a classic flavor that you have experienced in mints, toothpaste and candies. My mother introduced us to this plant when we we’re children playing in the fields in the Catskills. The red berries we’re fun little treats that we would look for in the fields and we could chew on the leaves for that wintergreen burst of flavor.
One interesting medicinal tidbit I discovered when I was doing a bit of wild wintergreen reading, it contains methyl salicylate, which is a kissing cousin of aspirin. Native Americans used it for aches and pains and as an anti inflammatory. It’s always amazing to me that someone had the nerve to first pop anything foreign into their mouths even if it smelled this good(I won’t even get into my wild mushroom issues!).
And if you’re feeling adventurous and want to try something new in the kitchen, here’s a link to a fun ice cream recipe if you have access to a few berries.
I posted this photo on social media this week and couldn’t believe the response, so I thought I would do a post on the mystery of the orange carrot…
I’m betting that every one of you has a bag of orange carrots sitting in their refrigerator right now. Did you ever wonder why they’re all orange? Probably not. I think we all just take for granted what’s presented to us in the supermarket or at the farm stand and never question the breeding, B.S. and politics that went into the history of vegetables.
It’s amazing to me that humans have been cultivating carrots for at least a thousand years. There are images from ancient Egypt that would potentially indicate their cultivation that much earlier, most likely for the seed, and it’s uses were medicinal and as an aphrodisiac (shocking with the pointy shape right?). The neat part is though, carrots started out in the wild virtually white and up until the 1600’s the classic color found was purple.
So why orange? The romantic legend is that 16th century dutch growers exclusively cultivated an almost lost variety as a tribute to William of Orange, orange of course being symbolic to the House of Orange at the time. However, in a quote from the UK’s Carrot Museum (seriously), “the Dutch developed and stabilised the orange carrot, in the 16th century. Subsequently the Dutch people adopted the colour orange and orange carrots as their national vegetable. There is no written evidence that this was also to honour their Royal Family. The point is that the orange carrot came first, Dutch Nationalism second.”
Feel free to believe either version of the story. Personally I like the more romantic tale. What is certain though, is that since the Dutch were the prominent agricultural breeders of the time period, orange carrots spread rapidly and that is why they are ubiquitous in every supermarket in the land today. Amazing no? Ancient politics in your 21st century grocery cart.
And if you truly can’t get enough carrot history and would like to learn more, here’s a link to the Carrot Museum…
Thanks as always for reading Extravagant Gardens. And please remember to subscribe – it’s nice to know you’re all out there!
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
by John McCrae
Take a moment in your day today to reflect upon their sacrifices for us…
My awesome Hubby (note the sucking up) is working on a bit of a chicken run redesign, we need something sturdier overhead than just bird netting (Did I mention I spotted a bald eagle? – Holy Moly!). Consequently my pretty girls have been getting a lot more traffic through their territory, and while some of them like it …
Some of them get a bit grumpy…
And we have a winner for the ‘Scary Read’ post – since there was only of you that entered, you know who you are! I’ll be sending it via Amazon shortly. And what’s up with that folks? All you current subscribers were eligible as well. C’est la vie!
The gardening season has really wound down and I have loads more time on my hands (not really). Since I’m not a huge fan of TV (other than my secret vices – Bloomberg and Cooking Shows), what’s a girl to do? Scare the hell out of herself with some classic horror that’s what!
I love to freak myself out at this time of year and always find something to ruin my sleep. So, if you’re like me, after you’re done carving your pumpkin, pick up one of these three scary reads to enhance the All Hallows mood…
Count Magnus and Other Ghost Stories is a series of ghost stories written in the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. They might be old but they’re still super scary. I checked the closet after reading a couple of them just to be sure nothing was lurking (my crazed cat was in there once – I jumped). There’s also a fabulous maze story called Mr. Humphreys and His Inheritance that will pretty much put you off that gardening idea forever – assuming The Shining hasn’t already accomplished that!
Need I say more? I reread Dracula every couple of years. Always a great scare and it’s nice to have a non teenage vampire who really is a bastard and not looking for love.
The first time I read The Woman in Black, I truly couldn’t sleep. Wickedly scary and I highly recommend it. It’s written in 1983 so its the most recent on my list, but it still has that terrifically spooky quality. There’s a movie now too that stars Daniel Radcliffe but I haven’t seen it so I can’t say much other than, always read the book first!
And now for the giveaway, let me scare you and send you a copy of Count Magnus and Other Ghost Stories… Just leave a comment and let me know what your favorite scary book or movie is. Also, you need to be an active email subscriber which means if you’re a new subscriber, when you enter your email (it says ‘subscribe’ at the top of the page) you’ll receive an email back that you must click to activate your free subscription. It’s super easy but you can’t win unless you’re active. I’ll run the contest through Tuesday November 3rd and let you know who wins on Wednesday.
As always thanks so much for reading and Happy Halloween!