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Well hello, friend!
November was like a cornstalk blowing past my window on a windy day. It flew by and now is entirely out of sight. Usually, November is when the weather turns from autumn to winter. This year, the weather was a bit of a yo-yo, starting abnormally warm and then turning unusually cold with temperatures in the mid-teens Fahrenheit. This put a damper on my Christmas containers since the soil froze solid before I could get outdoors to work on them. I usually scramble to finish all my Christmas decor before Thanksgiving since I spend the holiday away from home. And why is that? Because it’s so comforting to come home to a cheery, ready-for-Christmas house.
As a family, we travel east to Harrisonburg, Virginia, for Thanksgiving. My sister and I both attended college in Harrisonburg. My sister married a local and now lives there with their three children. About 12 years ago, Mom and I began the tradition of traveling to her home for Thanksgiving. In return, their family of five travels to Iowa for Christmas. What’s comical is that I find enjoyment in traveling for Thanksgiving. Growing up, we lived within miles of all our relatives and never had the need to travel. While I understand that traveling can be more of a headache, our family finds it fun and quite festive.
And that’s how I feel about our time in these newsletters: you and I under one roof, simply chatting. Grab something to drink, and let’s catch up!
Let’s talk about some holiday food.
For Thanksgiving last week, I made much of the food I showed in my videos leading up to the holiday.
The star of the meal (the turkey) was my classic dry-brine turkey recipe. The meat is delicious, moist, and full of flavor. One thing I always have to be conscious of is that the cooking time for turkey can vary. My turkey took far less than the recommended 15 minutes per pound. Thus, it’s always a good idea to check the meat with an instant-read thermometer to know when it’s done.
For the sides, I made three different recipes that my entire family loved:
- My pear and wild rice salad was an instant hit. I love the texture and heartiness the wild rice adds, and the pears are a nice sweet morsel.
- My recipe for roasted spiced carrots with pistachios and dates is a delicious combination of sweetness balanced with spices.
- The stuffed acorn squash casserole took the place of the traditional stuffing, and everyone agreed they might like it better! This dish is also great for a weeknight meal, so if you’re looking for a new one to enjoy, try this one next!
We finished off the meal with both pumpkin pie and pecan pie. My mom opted for a small slice of each, while my nieces and nephew chose pumpkin. Since it’s the holidays, why not make both so everyone can enjoy their favorite?
It was a good Thanksgiving, and I hope yours was too!
But there’s no reason these recipes need to be relegated to Thanksgiving! All of the food works perfectly for the Christmas season as well!
Meals often take a back seat to sweet treats during the Christmas holiday. For Thanksgiving, everyone seems to prepare a particular set of traditional recipes. There’s so much variety when it comes to Christmas, though! And for my family, the usual recipes have always centered around the sweet tooth! Here’s what I’ve been making already:
- Peppernuts. These small, anise-flavored crunchy cookies were a recipe that my grandma Conrad made every year by the gallon. She would gift all of her children precisely two gallons. And if you knew Grandma, you knew that she made sure everything was fair. She also always had a jar on her counter full for any guests. I won’t skirt around the fact that these peppernuts are a labor of love, so it’s especially heartening to know the time and care it took her to prepare these.
- Brown butter herb party mix. It’s another recipe from Grandma and a perfect gift everyone raves about. So if you’re unsure what to get someone in your life, bake this for them. I bag it nicely and tie it with a ribbon when I give it as a gift.
- Peppermint bark. Even though it is super easy, everyone always loves it. Plus, it also looks exceptionally festive with the crushed peppermint candy nestled amongst white chocolate!
Stay tuned for more recipes coming this December. I’ll be posting many new and classic recipes soon, the first of which was pesto meatballs, a perfect appetizer or weeknight meal.
Let’s talk about the outdoors.
The garden is entirely in its winter slumber. Do you see me doing a small happy dance over here? While I love my garden, I’m ready to know the garden work is done for a while, and I can instead dream about what I want to do next spring.
During November, I mulched both the garlic and shallots with shredded leaves. The garlic has sprouted (which is normal!), and now this mulch will add a layer of much-needed protection. The parsley and kale were going strong into November, but as soon as the abnormally cold weather set in, they froze. It’s okay – I’ll grow more next year!
I managed to get all my Christmas lights hung, and most of my Christmas containers finished. When I returned from Thanksgiving, we brought some warmer weather with us, allowing the soil in my containers to thaw and me to construct the greens. The soil is moist at this point, but once it freezes, it will cement all of the greens in place.
For many years now, I’ve sprayed the greens with an anti-desiccant. This provides a wax coating to the greens to trap moisture and keep them from browning. Cold weather also keeps them green. Usually, I have no issues with browning, but if the weather is abnormally warm, some tender greens can brown. Either way, the greens add so much cheer to the house!
Let’s talk about Kip.
Kip has been doing about the same… which means he’s doing well! We’ve been waiting for him to plateau with no changes, and the last months have been pretty even-keeled. That means we can finally do his monthly Cytosar treatment (chemotherapy used as an immune suppressant) close to home. We’ve been traveling each month four hours away, so it’s a welcome relief to have a few months where treatment can be administered locally. The University of Illinois feels that Kip is stable enough, and in a few months, we’ll go back for a check-up.
Kip has been full of energy and cannot get enough outdoor time. With the cooler weather, Kip wants to run and catch the frisbee as much as possible. If you’ve followed since May 2021, back when he suddenly went paralyzed, you know what a blessing and joy this is for me!
That’s all for November, a month when the holidays feel like they begin. Whether you celebrate the holidays or not, I hope you enjoyed this month. Let’s revel in the anticipation of what’s to come, and let’s hope I get you a December newsletter before Christmas day!
Until then, take care!
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