November 29, 2012

Mason Jars in the Basement

I am cleaning out my basement and pulling out my Christmas decorations at the same time.  Like soup and sandwiches they seem to go together.  This year I am trying....note trying, to be more methodical about it, purging and organizing as I go.

I came across a box of mason jars I brought back from Indiana when my sibs and I were clearing out my family homestead this summer.

Serendipitously, I came across this item on EMMALINE BRIDE outlining 17 CHRISTMAS MASON JAR IDEAS...some of which are really clever...and not too cutesie.  I do so love the attractive practicality of mason jars, don't you?  The image here is from their site....PEPPERMINT HOT COCOA IN A JAR. Guaranteed to elicit a smile.

I think I might need to recruit some of those jars in the basement for just such a purpose.

November 27, 2012

Christmas Cactus Care

Ah, the Christmas Cactus,

Schlumbergera x buckleyi,

though in my case it tends to be more of a Thanksgiving cacti.

I've had this mammoth salmon and pink specimen for years and years. I can't recall just how many, but each November it reliably puts on a spectacular show with very little effort on my part.

Quite dramatique, don't you think?

Whimsical, nodding, fuchsia look-alike flowers with lots of personality. Individual blooms don't last long, but there are LOTS of them, coming and going over a couple of weeks.

Keep them out of drafts and away from heat vents to avoid bud drop and don't let them dry out.  They require more water and humidity than you might think, especially while in bloom and in a heated environment.

If the glossy, segmented branches look or feel even the slightest limp, it's probably time for a drink. Placing the pot in a saucer filled with pebbles and water provides much appreciated humidity.

After blooming, I put it in a well-lit, cool room...letting it dry out slightly between waterings, then when the weather vacations outside in light shade, getting watered and fed just like my other outdoor potted plants.

I give no attention to periods of light and dark to get it to bloom again.  By the time it comes inside just before the first frost, it is forming buds (as a response to the shorter days and longer nights)... then repeats the cycle...

and flowers again the following Thanksgiving. 

Mother Nature does all the work, thank you very much.

This sweet pink cutie is just now showing her stuff.

She has some pretty big footsteps to fill.  :)

November 26, 2012

Making Magic 101: Thanksgiving 2012

There are no college courses for it.  No pre-requisites.  No specific chapter entitled 'Making Holiday Magic 101' in the plethora of books and magazines out there by this or that domestic guru.

And yet, it is the very essence of what we try to create when we gather together to celebrate an occasion, a season... a reason to share happiness with one another.

We cook and we shop and we set the table and we take pictures. We respect old traditions and make new ones...

we attempt, as my older sister says, to "make sure everyone's needs are met", if not their dreams or high expectations.

We discover that Norman Rockwell schtick is pretty hard, if not impossible. to pull off.

But try we do...even if (as Color Girl and I were discussing last week) the holidays can sometimes be,

well, just flat out inconvenient some years.

But elusive as it is,

when the stars are in alignment,  the kids are home, all are healthy

(and mom is in a good mood)

we can make magic.

Here's to a magical holiday season, everyone.

November 15, 2012

Inglenook Winery

Earlier this month Husband and I spent a magical week in sunny California. We started the week in Big Sur, and ended the week with a spectacular evening at Francis Ford Coppala's INGLENOOK WINERY 

(click here for more information about its history, collections and tours.) 

I must say, there is nothing quite like wandering around an iconic glass in hand...sipping and looking and soaking it all in...

surrounded by beauty...a few ghosts...

and dining to golden candlelight.

The menu was divine:  steak, salad, chocolate,

and...more wine, much more...accompanied by opera, of course.

But the food paled in comparison to the setting and the atmosphere of the place.

I was particularly captivated by a mammoth 'floral' arrangement on a large table in the wine store.

It was truly resplendent.  

Composed largely of oak leaves, nandina branches,

arching stems of bittersweet,

persimmon-laden limbs...

perhaps some fiery leaved crepe myrtle.

Airy, dramatic, flaxen, and ever so autumnal.

Nature glowing...

and showing off.

It is the inspiration for my Thanksgiving table.  The colors, the organic quality, abundance all around of us.

Much, MUCH, to appreciate and be thankful for.

Soft, intimate candlelight. Gentle, warm buzz from the wine.  The backdrop of happy conversation. The scents of wine and nature and flame. Immersed in so much beauty it almost hurt.  

Honey and saffron and butterscotch and chestnut.  Umber and amber.  

Saturated in autumn.

The evening also inspired my segment on Newschannel 4 with LC yesterday.  If you missed it, watch it here.  You can also get an update on our Christmas amaryllis challenge. (More on this in incoming posts.)

(To visit the winery call 707.968.1100;  1991 St. Helena Hwy,  Rutherford, CA 94573)
 If you are planning a tour,  ask for Bob Cuozzo.  He conducted our tour and was
far more informative than tour guides at other wineries in the area.  Thanks,  Bob!)